THE UNIVERSITY OF
THE WILMER COLLECTION
OF CIVIL WAR NOVELS
RICHARD H. WILMER, JR.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"THIS loyal young lady went TO HER Room and
CRIED LIKE ANY OTHER MORTAL."
A STORY OF
WAR-TIME^ IN A NEW ENQLAND
BY MRS. O. W. SCOTT
Nettie and Her Friends, Santa Claus Stories, Boys and Other Boys,
Girls of To-day, etc.
NEW YORK: HUNT & EA TON
CINCINNA TI: CRANSTON & STOIVE
i So i
Copyright, 1891, by
HUNT & EATON,
THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF NEW ENGLAND,
TO MY NATIVE STATE,
"GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS'*
NEVER LEFT A FLAG IN THE HANDS OF THE REBELS
DURING THE CIVIL WAR,
THIS STORY OF PATRIOTIC LIVING
CHAPTER I. page
Gilead's First War Sermon 7
Plowshares into Swords 23
A Pastoral Visit 36
A Strange Test 50
A Peculiar Angel 62
Sunday Noon 74
"Company F" S7
Blue Suits 99
On to Dixie 109
Austin's Letter 122
Mrs. Phelps's Thanksgiving Sermon 132
The Emancipation Proclamation 142
CHAPTER XIII. page
A Fallen Hero 155
Esther's School 164
Victoria Victrix 173
Gilead's " Soldiers' Aid " 182
Self-denial Supplies 205
Two Lives for One 217
" Your Vegetables or Vour Life ! " 230
Hiel's Experience 240
From the Shadow of Death 252
The Raid and a Raider 261
Ruby's Hero 271
Thanksgiving Again 282
Swords into Plowshares 292
THE GILEAD GUARDS.
GILEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON.
THERE was nothing in the rural town of Gil-
ead on that lovely June Sabbath in 1862 to
suggest warfare of any kind.
Looking around you might have seen wide corn-
fields, hill pastures covered with verdure to their
very tops, sleepy cows lying beside shaded brooks,
lazily chewing their cuds, and long dusty roads lead-
ing past quiet farm-houses. Farther away, out-
lined clearly against the quiet sky, were long spurs
of the Green Mountain range, encircling the town
and completely shutting it in from the outside
You would have said, " Beautiful for situation ! "
and so it was ; even to the small unambitious vil-
lage which crowned an elevation near the center of
the town, where were two churches, a court-house,
bank, and a few other unpretentious public build-
ings in the midst of pleasant homes. The churches,
one white, the other light brown, stood on either
side of an inclosed plot of ground called the " com-
mon." You might have wondered why it was in-
closed, for it was overgrown with weeds and this-
S THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
ties, and crossed from gate to gate by two narrow
paths, showing that it was open to the public, and
not a " private institution." It was also surrounded
by a row of trees, tiny maples, most of them, which
were nearly all dead and stood as mute witnesses
against a " village improvement society " which had
built the fence, set out the trees, and then died of
But the fence was not simply a relic, since to its
post-rails, Sunday after Sunday, were fastened the
horses which brought the farmers' families to church.
There they stood on this particular Sabbath, with
bowed heads and half-closed eyes; their tails lazily
switching the flies away, voluntarily enforcing the
natural " Sunday law," whose only enemy is man.
Two or three village loafers sat on the store
steps just around a corner, talking and spitting to-
bacco-juice right and left, their soiled clothing and
unshaven faces bearing witness against them. But
even they gave vent to their stale jokes and lifeless
gossip in lower tones than usual, irresistibly sub-
dued by the pervading quiet and peace of the day.
Possibly, too, they felt the influence of tones which
occasionally resounded from the nearest pulpit;
seeming to bring them, in their forlorn condition,
uncomfortably near to their neglected " gospel
privileges." They knew very well whose voice it
was, and as it grew more distinct with increasiugV
earnestness, Jack Bragg remarked uneasily :
"The elder appears to be havin' a remarkable
And this was also the opinion of the people who
filled the plain, old-fashioned white church, as they
GILEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 9
always did when it was noised abroad that " Elder
Putnam " was to be present on one of his official
The young pastor of the church looked upon this
popularity with a jealous eye, and decided to watch
the man more carefully, to ascertain, if possible, by
what secret power he drew from their homes men
and women who had never been affected in the least
by his own eloquence. But with the reading of the
text on this occasion his anxieties began, increasing
with the progress of the sermon until he was wholly
unfit to prepare a calm synopsis of that discourse
or any other. The text was, " O thou sword of the
Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet ? "
The preacher read it twice with great distinctness,
standing before the people, tall, dark, and spare,
like some self-renouncing prophet with a message
from the Lord. Then followed Gilead's first war
It may seem strange that this was true, but the
town was far from the centers of excitement and
action ; so, although more than one year of war
had passed into history, this isolated little place had
sent but few to the front. A few there had been,
of the best and the worst young men, who had hur-
ried away at the first alarm ; but the great majority
were still reading their own town paper, the Stand-
ard, and the New York Tribune, and impatiently
waiting for the "rulers" to settle the "little un-
But their loyalty and personal interest had been
pent up quite as long as was possible, and this ser-
mon was like a match thrown among prepared com-
10 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
bustibles. The pastor, Rev. G. Harmon Phelps,
looked into the faces of the people in amazement
as they listened to the fiery sentences which fol-
lowed each other in rapid succession, often enforced
by resounding thumps upon the pulpit. The
elder was never a quiet man in preaching, but
now he paced back and forth, his iron-gray hair
tossed from his forehead, his face alive with intense
" Ah," said he, " what shall we say of this terrible
sin of slavery ? Men have dared to buy and sell
and torture their brother-men ; and the question as
to whether it was right or wrong has been thrown
back and forth in our legislative halls until it has
been molded into a red-hot cannon-ball, and God
says, 'Use it for the down-trodden and the oppressed.'
God has been patient. He kept silent until the
heavens were rent with the cries of his enslaved
children, and then he stretched forth his hands, and
this nation is being shaken by the fierceness of his
Esquire Fletcher, who occupied a prominent pew
and was listening intently, brought his gold-headed
cane down upon the floor with emphasis, and
" You have thought slavery was a horrible sin,
no doubt, but how can you measure a sin that does
not seemingly touch you or your interests?
" But God, according to his word, is revealing to
this nation, and to us as individuals, the magnitude
of this sin by demanding a corresponding sacrifice.
And O, what a price to pay ! When your brave
boys stand in the day of battle to fight for those
GILEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 11
who cannot fight for themselves, then you will be-
gin to understand God's opinion of this great ques-
Two or three women, mothers of " brave boys,"
covered their faces ; but with outstretched hand
the minister continued :
" Sin never fully showed its hideousness until the
great Sacrifice was offered once for all ; and slavery,
the special sin of this nation, never looked as black
as it will when the altars of our country are drenched
with patriotic blood."
Turning from the description of sin to the possi-
bility of its triumph, the preacher aroused the loy-
alty of his hearers by referring to the struggles of
their forefathers, and the true significance of national
liberty; appealing to them, as they valued their
inherited blessings, to defend them, if need be, with
It is impossible to convey an idea of the intensity,
the fierce energy, with which the sermon was de-
livered. It was this even more than the Avords
which electrified the people. Not that they evinced
any special excitement, for that was not customary
in New England country towns ; but one who un-
derstood them as well even as their pastor might
safely predict results.
In a certain pew sat Mr. Rollins, who had kept all
the newspapers out of his home, lest his two grown-
up sons should " catch the war fever." His face wore
a look of stern disapproval which was faithfully
reflected in that of his wife ; who, being on the
sunny side of the house and close to a large, un-
shaded window, had spread her green gingham par-
12 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
asol, from whose protecting shade she sent her
wrathful glance toward the pulpit.
The boys sat between their parents ; and their
mother noted with a heart-pang that Thomas was
preternaturally quiet, while Andrew was constantly
running his fingers through his well-oiled hair until
it stood up in every direction. Just in front sat
Mr. Douglas, a man of Scotch descent, whose opin-
ions were always worth considering. He felt sure
from the first that his son David's fate was decided.
But he listened, and weighed arguments, and ad-
mitted evidence, and made up his mind to submit
bravely to the inevitable, even while a voice from
the depths of his heart was crying, " My son, my
son, my only son, can I give you up?"
There, too, was poor little Mrs. Follinsbee, dis-
solved in tears because her big broad-shouldered
husband, who had been growing restless of late, was
assuming a martial air, and indorsing, silently but
unmistakably, every word of the sermon.
In the gallery, which rose behind and above the
high "box pulpit," was the choir, numbering a dozen
or more young people.
At the head of the soprano sat Ruby Fletcher,
the squire's only child. Her cheeks were crimson
with excitement, and her eyes glowed as she fol-
lowed the discourse and watched the people in the
pews below. She wished she were a man, that she
might dash away at once and win glory upon a
battle-field. As she was only a woman, she began
to wonder if Abram Steele felt as she did, and wished
she could catch one glimpse of his face. But Abram
was chorister, and sat near the melodeon at the
GILEAD 'S FIRST WAR SERMON: 13
rear, quietly turning the leaves of his singing-book.
Don Stanley, who sat next to Ruby, at the head of
the bass singers, gave an answering nod to her in-
quiring glance; and Joe Armstrong, just beyond,
seemed profoundly moved, but kept his eyes fixed
upon the minister. His wife was behind Ruby, with
baby Nellie; and, having written a note to Joe on a
leaf torn from her hymn-book, she begged Ruby to
pass it to him, whispering as she did so :
" He needn't think he is going. I wont let him.
I wish that minister was in Texas."
"Don't talk that way, Vic," replied Ruby.
" Somebody has got to go, and if you love your
country just keep still and help Joe get ready. I
would, if I were in your place."
" You don't know any thing about it. I don't
care two cents for my country, and Joe's worth
more than all the negroes. O, dear! O, dear!"
And Vic ended her frenzied whisper with an hyster-
ical sob which all the singers heard, especially poor
Joe, whose eyes filled with tears as he thought of
what it would be to leave wife and baby. The ser-
mon closed at length, and, like the echo of a bugle-
call " America " was read. The choir and con-
gregation tried to sing it, but the volume of sound
which the good old tune usually carried was lack-
ing, and at the last verse it became almost a bass
and tenor duet. One voice, however, sustained the
air to the end, and that was Ruby Fletcher's. Her
father, who, as usual, was keeping time with his cane,
noticed an expression upon her face which reminded
him of a picture of Joan d'Arc, hanging in his li-
brary at home ; and he said to himself, " If Ruby
14 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
were a boy she would enlist to-morrow." But Ruby
was not a boy, and so it was an easy matter for
Esquire Fletcher to hasten forward a little later,
shake hands with the minister, and say, " That was
grand, elder! Just what was needed to rouse our
boys. If you had called for volunteers you'd have
got them, I'm sure."
" Perhaps Mr. Fletcher would not feel quite so
pleased if we had a son to send," said his wife.
" No, that he wouldn't," said Mr. Douglas, ex-
tending his hand. " He would close his lips and
pray for courage, as I do, when I think of my
Mr. Putnam wiped the perspiration from his fore-
head and turned with a look of deep sympathy at
"And do you think he will surely go?" he in-
quired, then added, half-regretfully, " I have been
surprised at the way the subject has opened before
me. I was led out to speak of things I had not
thought to mention, and yet I meant it all, breth-
ren, every word of it."
" Of course ! of course ! " responded Mr. Douglas,
heartily. " I've been convinced for some time that
we would have to do our part ; but it comes hard on
us who have boys."
" I have two in the field already," said the min-
ister, in a husky tone; " so I know just how it is."
Mrs. Follinsbee, a meek, hard-working woman,
naturally very retiring, now pressed forward, her
eyes red with weeping.
" My husband will go to war now, I know he
will," said she, " and you are responsible ! "
GILEAD 'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 15
" O, I hope not, I trust not ! Your husband
would not take such a step without serious thought
and deep conviction, I am sure," said the minister,
looking really distressed. But Mrs. Follinsbee only
shook her head and hurried away.
Mr. Rollins, who had formerly expressed high
admiration for Mr. Putnam, did not stop to shake
hands. Instead, he expressed his opinion, outside
of the door, in a subdued Sunday growl :
" Did ye ever hear such stuff? I come to meetin'
to hear the Gospel, and if a man can't preach the
Gospel he better keep away from Gilead."
" O, well," answered Mr. Steele, good-naturedly,
" this 'ere war may be a gospel war. I can't tell.
He preached just what he believes, and I wouldn't
wonder if he got it about right."
" A minister has no business to preach politics,
any way," snapped Mrs. Rollins, who was envelop-
ing herself in a ' linen duster ' in view of her three-
mile ride. " We rode away down here this hot day
to listen to an edifyin' sermon, and I got the boys to
come, and here they've got their minds all joggled
up about this war business, and next we know they'll
be 'listin', Thomas and Andrew both, fer they
always go together;" and a sound like a sob fol-
lowed the last word, which she seemed to transfix
with the pin she used to fasten the duster at the
Mr. Steele, who was very lame, sat down in the
little vestry to wait until Abram came to the door
with the family wagon. He was generally very
prompt, but to-day he lingered in the gallery, pre-
tending that the melodeon, which had a chronic
16 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
weakness in the bellows, needed special attention.
After the other members of the choir had left, Ruby
Fletcher came back for a forgotten glove, as Abram
had begged her to !
" Well? " said she, inquiringly, her face still glow-
ing with the Joan d'Arc expression.
" I must go ; I suppose you know that ? " said he,
lightly and yet decidedly.
" Yes," she answered, fully understanding, " and
I only wish I could go too."
" May I come up to see you a little while this
evening ?" was the next question, and Abram closed
and locked the melodeon nervously before he looked
" Yes, if you want to," responded Ruby ; and then
she ran down the stairs to join her father, her heart
throbbing strangely, while hot tears rushed to her
eyes. Mr. Fletcher was still talking with the two
ministers ; while her mother, the Steele girls, and
Miss Hancock were gathered about Mrs. Judge
Plumley, whose son was captain of a cavalry com-
pany. She belonged to the " other church," but,
being engaged in packing a box for the " boys," had
come across the " common " to give the ladies an
opportunity to send packages if they desired to
" We haven't many friends there yet," said Miss
Hancock ; " but there's no telling when we shall
have. After the sermon we had to-day it'll be a
wonder if men enough stay at home to do the hay-
" Be thankful you've nobody to send, Miss Han-
cock," said Mrs. Plumley, tenderly.
GI LEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 17
"But haven't I?" responded that lady. "Look
at my Sabbath-school class ! A dozen young men
that I've had since they wore dresses — some of them,
any way — and haven't I told them war stories by
the hour? I thought, as I watched their faces to-
day, that I had done my part toward preparing
them. I wanted them to be brave, but not for
But the noise of wheels at the door called the
Steele girls away, and very soon the old meeting-
house was silent ; and the dust settled upon the
great Bible and hymn-book, the spiders went on
weaving lace curtains over the bare windows, the
pews assumed again that look of peculiar emptiness
which characterizes church pews during the week,
and the old sexton, who lived just across the street,
laid down his paper and hobbled over to lock the
door ; but the words which had been spoken were
not shut in. They were already like seed scattered
broadcast, destined to bring forth much fruit.
Mr. Steele's horse, tired and hungry after his long
fast, could hardly wait until the family were seated
in the carriage to start for home. He went pranc-
ing and curveting through the village, only settling
into a respectable trot when the long hill was
It seemed natural then that the sermon should be
discussed, but there was an ominous silence instead.
Abram used his whip assiduously upon the birch
saplings which almost touched the wheels ; for the
hill road ran through delightful woods whose shade
was doubly welcome on a melting summer's day.
His father was absorbed in his own meditations, and
IS THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Esther and Mary did not care to break the spell. So
the mile and more between church and home was
passed without a word on the exciting topic of the
But the news had been in advance of them, for
the Hickey boys, who lived beyond Mr. Steele's,
had discovered Benjie standing under some plum-
trees, book in hand, while he " watched the bees,"
whose expected swarming had kept him at home.
" Hello ! " they called, approaching with long
strides, their Sunday coats hanging over their arms,
their hats pushed back from perspiring foreheads.
" Whew ! " ejaculated John Henry, using his hat
for a fan. "You look nice 'nd comfort'ble here in
the shade, Benjie. I tell you it's too hot to dress
up in meetin' clothes. Good things has to be
lined, I s'pose, but lining's a nuisance such weather 's
" You'd orter heard Elder Put's sermon, though,"
interposed George, drawing a long " ribbon grass "
over his thumb ; " every body's wide awake, I tell
you. It was a regular fightin' sermon ; 'nd all the
boys 're ready to enlist. You'd orter seen their
faces, and the women's faces too. O, my! you'd
thought 'twas a funeral, to see 'em cry. You'll find
out Abram '11 go ; I could sec how he looked
in behind his singin'-book. Ruby Fletcher, too —
she grew red in the face, 'nd her eyes snapped, 'nd
I'll bet she wished she was a boy, so she could go,
She wont keep Abram from goin'; you c'n bet your
life on that ! "
" Some of the old men got to talkin'," interrupted
John Henry, "and I heard 'em say that Abram
G I LEAD 'S FIRST WAR SERMON: 19
would be an officer if he went. He's a grand good
feller, Abram is."
It made Benjie feel an inch taller to hear his
brother praised, but he only said, " I don't know-
about that ; I guess there's a good many that want
to be officers."
"Yes," said John Henry, gathering himself up
to go on, " it aint likely any Gilead boy will want
to be less 'n captain ; though if I enlist I'll be sat-
isfied with first lieutenant's place ;" and his big sober
mouth broadened, and his eyes twinkled in visible
appreciation of the joke.
As the two brothers walked on, Benjamin hurried
into the house, where he found the family just ready
to sit down to a late dinner, which also answered for
an early supper.
" Have you really made up your mind to go to
war, Abram?" asked the boy, excitedly, as he slid
into his place. "The Hickey boys think so, any-
"Benjamin!" cried his mother, with quick ap-
prehension, "what are you talking about? The
Hickey boys ought to be in better business than
telling such stuff on Sunday."
Abram looked at his father and the girls with a
queer smile. " They were only following the minis-
ter's example, I guess. But the fact is we might as
well face this thing first as last ;" and Abram threw
back his broad shoulders. " I do expect, if I live, to
" O, Abram ! " and with grief-stricken face his
mother looked at him, while . her eyes filled with
20 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" Wish 't I was old enough to go too," said Rcnjie
in a low tone, giving Abram an admiring nod.
Mr. Steele buttered the piece of bread on his
plate and cut it into sections. " It don't surprise
me much to hear you say so, Abram," he said at
length, his voice husky in spite of strong self-con-
trol. " I know that many must die for the sins of
the nation, but I have hoped there'd be enough to
settle the question without drawing on Gilead.
Seems to me we haven't many to spare."
" There's none to spare," interrupted his wife.
" The farms will grow up to weeds while the boys
are down South getting shot for nothing."
"You don't mean for nothing, mother," said Es-
ther, leaning forward with flushed cheeks and tear-
ful eyes. " The minister said the Right would win
sooner or later."
" I see you are all on Abram 's side, quite willing
to have him go and leave your poor lame father
alone," answered her mother, reproachfully.
" O, now, mother, you know better than that,"
said Abram. " Father wont be left alone. Austin
must come home, of course, because he can't go any
way. He's only twenty, but he can help do the
farm work as well as I, and I'm sure it is his turn
after a year in Boston. Why, mother, I have
been thinking about this for some time, and I
wonder now that I could have waited so long.
You would despise me if I stayed at home like a
" There's enough that can go and never be
missed," was his mother's only answer as she looked
into his manly face, now full of animation.
GI LEAD'S FIRST WAR SERMON. 21
"Did the bees swarm, Benjamin?" asked Mr.
" No, sir ; I thought they was going to, but I guess
there was some trouble with the queen bee. Any-
how, they finally settled down."
" May be she didn't want them to leave the old
hive," said Abram, with a glance at his mother. But
she did not answer it, perhaps did not hear his
The family were not in the habit of talking freely
about matters that affected them most deeply; and,
true to their training, they finished the meal almost
in silence, though their hearts ached with dread
That evening Abram went to see Ruby Fletcher.
In quiet, staid Gilead a Sunday-night visit was full
of meaning and supposed to be a sure indication of
"something serious." Ruby understood this, and
with the exaltation of the day still unsubdued she
put roses in her hair and upon her breast, and sat
behind the vines in the broad veranda watching for
him. They had always known each other, and it
was tacitly agreed by interested friends that they
would some time " make a match ; " but there had
never been a formal engagement.
That night, however, when Abram left Esquire
Fletcher's he was quite ready for congratulations.
Ruby had greeted him as a hero, and it seemed the
most natural thing in the world to promise herself
as a reward when he should return from battle-fields,
bearing honors, titles, and, possibly, wounds. When
he suggested that Ruby only cried out, in her im-
pulsive fashion :
22 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" As though that would make any difference !
I'd rather have you come back with only one arm
than stay at home and keep both."
It is needless to say that Ruby was more patriotic
than the majority of young ladies. Her father had
" talked politics " with her mother and herself until
they thoroughly understood the condition of na-
tional affairs ; and, as she inherited his ardent, im-
pulsive temperament, she echoed his sentiments even
to the limit of self-abnegation. But, after bidding
Abram a cheerful good-night, this loyal young lady
went to her room and cried like any other mortal ;
proving by heartache and tears that her sacrifice
was no less real because it was offered with a self-
As for Abram, we must forgive him if he held his
head higher than usual as he strode toward home.
All desirable good seemed within his grasp. Ad-
venture, patriotic daring and danger, faithful service,
advancement, glory, and — Ruby ! He had not
known until that day the possibilities within him-
self; and as he stood at his father's door he turned
and looked across the fields and upon the meadows
through which the river ran, all so still under the
starlight, and wondered that he had stayed in
Gilead so long. How small the place looked in the
light of the future ! How uneventful and barren
his life had been ! But now it was to expand and
grow richer and nobler as he gave himself to his
country as a patriot soldier. And, looking up into
the serene heights above, he thanked God for life
and the prospect that opened before him.
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 23
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS.
ABRAM'S exalted state of mind was in no sense
disturbed by his visions of the night ; and he
appeared at the breakfast-table with a radiant face,
which his mother scanned with troubled eyes.
" You don't look as though you expected to leave
home and friends in a little while, Abram," said she,
passing him the fragrant johnny-cake.
" O, now, mother, don't go to thinking that I
shall get killed in the first battle. I expect to go
and come back again to take care of you in your
old age. Of course you feel bad, but what could
you expect of a boy that has read Uncle Toms
Cabin through as many times as I have ? Why, I
tell you I have almost learned that by heart. And
then think how father 's taken the Tribune and
Harper's Weekly all this year past, until we're full
of fight, and ready to give advice to every general
in the army ; " and Abram laughed cheerily, as
though the whole subject was one to make merry
" The Tribune comes out pretty strong — pretty
strong," said his father, with emphasis on the first
syllable, but otherwise sure of his ground. " None
too much so, though; for people and papers can't
stand on the fence these days."
" I guess we don't stand on the fence," said Ben-
24 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
jie, his mouth hardly cleared in his haste to speak.
" It would be funny, after hearing so much about
slavery, if none of father's boys should have a hand
in getting rid of it."
" Austin would be the one to go if he was of
age," said Mary. " He's all for excitement and
change ; but I don't see how we can get along with-
out Abram. Austin never '11 carry us to meetings
and singing-school as you do, Abram. But there
wont be a singing-school or any thing else, will
there ? Who'll sing bass and tenor when all the
boys are gone ? " And Mary, who was just learning
to sing, looked around with a doleful face.
" O, the girls will learn all parts, and have a fe-
male choir, probably. And you can learn to chop
wood, and ride on the mowing-machine, and do lots
of things. Why, Mary, it will be almost as good as
though you were a boy."
As Mary was rather noted for her scorn of wom-
anly duties this provoked a laugh at her expense ;
and Abram was very careful to lead the conversation
from that point away from the exciting topic of the
day. Breakfast finished, Mr. Steele read a chapter
from the Bible and offered prayer, which opened
their hearts anew and sent every member of the
family in a different direction, as soon as they rose
from their knees, to hide the tears they could not
check. Left alone in the sunny sitting-room, Mr.
Steele settled himself once more in his broad old
arm-chair and opened his Bible. This was a long-
established habit of his ; in fact, his wife had often
groaned in spirit when, on a bright morning, he
would become so interested in a text as to sit hunt-
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 25
ing up references for an hour, when, in her opinion,
he should have been differently employed. But for
a few years past she had left him in peace, since his
increasing lameness had made him incapable of
protracted labor — and then, there was Abram !
He had really taken charge of affairs almost wholly
since, two years before, he came from school be-
cause he learned that his father was borrowing
money to keep him there. He had a very high re-
spect for his father's mental and moral qualities,
but saw that, through his goodness and confidence
in his fellow-men, he was constantly liable to impo-
sition. Abram could never forget how, when Mr.
Slocum's old blind ox fell into their ditch, his father
had sent him over with one of their best cows to
make " lawful restitution," and how Mr. Slocum
had chuckled over the matter, accepting the cow
even while he declared that the old ox " would have
been killed for beef the next week any way ! "
Abram was a little fellow at the time, but he lay up
in the hay-mow a long while crying over the loss of
the cow, and trying to decide what was right and
what was wrong, not daring to take his perplexity
to his father ; for, while Mr. Steele erred on the
side of mercy in his dealings with the world, he was
a rigid disciplinarian in his family and encouraged
no confidential conferences with his children. But
now Abram, without interfering with his father in
any way, had established a sort of " protectorate "
over his interests, and was trying, with a prospect
of success, to pay off the mortgage and make
needed improvements. His position as the head
of affairs was tacitly acknowledged, and old Mr.
26 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Slocum, who was still apt to " overreach," showed
his respect for the young man by building several
rods of rail-fence which he had always insisted " be-
longed to Steele." Abram laughed when his
father cited it as an indication that Mr. Slocum was
" growing clever in his old age." And now that
this strong, reliable son was about to leave him it
was not strange that Mr. Steele felt the need of
consolation and read psalm after psalm until his
mind was at rest.
But the mother could not take time from her busy
morning to read the Bible. As she skimmed pans of
milk in the cool pantry, transferring the rich yellow
cream to earthen jars, she recalled Abram's baby-
hood and boyhood; and the love which had been
growing all these years protested against his decision.
Such was her temperament that she saw but one
possible result of his going, which was a fatal shot
on a pitch-dark battle-field ! Her imagination ran
on until she saw him buried in an unknown grave,
the homestead sold, and herself and her husband,
reduced to extreme poverty, on their way to the
poor-house. And yet in the very midst of these
gloomy pictures she decided, like so many, many
mothers in those dreadful days, to make the best of
what seemed inevitable.
As for the cause of all these sad anticipations, he
went to his work with a martial tread, feeling that
he must accomplish as much as possible before leav-
ing the old farm. Benjie kept close by, as though
a new partnership had been formed between them,
quite ready to air his views of Abram's prospects as
a soldier, and to " bet " any amount that he would
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 27
speedily be called to some high position. They
had been in the field but a short time when a loud
"Hullo!" called their attention to the roadside,
and there they found Joe Armstrong.
" I can't work this morning," said he, dejectedly.
"Guess I can't do any thing till this thing is
settled, for if you go, Abram, I must. Vic cried
and took on so last night that I tried to give it all
up, but I can't. It makes me sick to think of it.
Seems if I should die if I don't go, 'nd I don't know
but Vic '11 die if I do."
The distress in Joe's honest eyes was not as-
sumed, by any means, and yet Abram laughed as he
said, "Why, Joe, you've got the war fever bad,
and of course you must go. I don't believe Vic will
die, though she'll miss you dreadfully. Some women
arc not so brave as others ; they can't help it."
And Abram's heart glowed at the thought of
Ruby's enthusiasm. In fact, his heart had been in
a blissful condition ever since he received her royal
blessing, and no difficulty looked very serious in the
light of his present experience. Joe's lip quivered
as he replied :
" Vic don't seem to see any good in it yet.
She just sees me, you know, 'nd she's afraid I'll get
shot. Then there's little Nellie ; but for all that I
feel 's if I must go."
Love of country and love for his pretty, shiftless
wife and the baby were evidently making it hard
" Well, I'll tell you what I'd do," said Abram,
after a little pause. " I'd go to work and fix things
up and get one of her brothers — there's Frank, for
28 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
instance — to stay with her and carry on the farm ;
and then, when the recruiting office is open, as it
probably will be soon, why, you just enlist, and
there you are ! "
Joe straightened himself and drew a long breath.
" That's what I will do. I don't know what
makes me feel so plaguey bad, but since that sermon
yesterday, seems 's if I'm all afire ; 'nd I tossed and
tumbled all night."
" It's catching, Joe. You needn't explain the
symptoms to me," laughed Abram.
Joe strode away, his face much brighter than
when he came; and as he hurried home "'cross
lots" he decided just what he ought to do. And
" ought " was a strong word with Joe. He had
been a poor boy, and had grown up in Gilcad,
working here and there, going to school when he
could, and winning a good many friends in place of
the father and mother he had lost. Not that he
had much petting, for the wise people in Gilead
did not think that was good for little boys, but
they had been fairly kind to him. They brought
up their calves on skim milk and then boasted of
their size and general excellence ; so, now that Joe
had outlived his skim-milk days, they felt a degree
of pride in his prosperity, for Joe had bought and
cleared a piece of land just at the foot of the mount-
ain and built a pretty little house. The neigh-
bors encouraged him and gave their approval to
that project ; but when he married Victoria Cleo-
patra Shaw they groaned in concert.
" That silly, lazy thing ! " they said, looking at
their own sensible, industrious daughters.
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 29
Victoria was the only girl in a family of seven
boys, and her mother, a romantic, aspiring woman,
whose life of toil gave her only imaginary bliss, had
spoiled Victoria by allowing her to spend her time
in idleness. The young lady read fashion magazines
and story-papers enough to break down the strong-
est mind ; and her affections were about equally
divided between them, her pretty clothes, and Joe.
But Joe was satisfied with his " thirds," and his big,
generous heart overflowed with gratitude whenever
he thought of the prize he — a homely, awkward fel-
low, as he called himself — had secured. In this state
of mind he still continued, in spite of his queen's
imperfections ; and it was no wonder that he had a
struggle between his love of wife and country. But
in deciding to enlist he had no idea of giving his
life — that was Vic's. He just wanted to go down
and help knock the breath out of slavery. That
was all ! Vic had not touched the breakfast-table
that morning, and when Joe came and stood in
the door-way she sat with her hands clasped in
her lap, listlessly watching little Nellie, who was
creeping about the unswept floor in company with
a couple of chickens that had ventured in after
crumbs. She only pouted at Joe, and said not a
" Don't feel bad any more, Vic," said he. " I'm
going to work. We wont cross the bridge till we
get to it, anyhow. Want me to see if I c'n get
some of them peas for dinner? "
" If ye want to," said Vic, sullenly.
" Well, I will. Come, now, you fix up a little and
see to the milk, wont von ? I'm afraid we wont
30 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
make butter enough for ourselves if the cream aint
took care of."
" I don't want no butter if you go to war," sobbed
Joe, seeing the uselessness of argument, discreetly
withdrew after kissing the baby and driving out
If any one could have taken a bird's-eye view
of Gilead that day he would have seen other young
men than Abram and Joe who were quite ready to
beat their plowshares into swords and start for
battle-fields. He would have seen them gathered
by twos and threes at convenient corners where
" lots " joined, and made friendly consultations
practicable, while the " team " rested, and grass
and grain waited and waved in the sunshine.
But perhaps, after all, Miss Hancock gathered
the news nearly as fast as one could, even with an
unusually extensive outlook. Not that Miss Han-
cock was a gossip ! She detested the character
and did not deserve it ; nor could we correctly say
that she " gathered " news.
It seemed to come to her naturally, because of her
relation to the place and the people ; and, having said
this, it may be as well to introduce Miss Hancock
more fully, because she was, as Mrs. Judge Plumley
said, " a person you ought to know." Prudentia
Hancock, then, was the last of her family in Gilead,
and at this time was a little past forty. But she
was youthful in appearance, her small, trim person,
unwrinkled face, and keen black eyes having appar-
ently made a truce with Father Time. She had
been the tailoress in Gilead, but as sewing-machines
PLOWSHARES INTO S WORDS. 31
came into use, and ready-made clothing was added
to the miscellaneous stock of goods in all country
stores, and a man tailor opened a shop at the " Cen-
ter " with a great parade of advertisements, her cus-
tomers gradually slipped away. Her work could
not be excelled, especially her button-holes, which
defied the ravages of time; but her patterns did not
conform to the latest styles ; and in some way her
customers had ascertained that there was a change
in the mode of cutting, and a few new tricks in the
disposal of buttons and braid, so that only a few of
the "older inhabitants " who wore " sheep's-gray "
and scoffed at fashion remained upon her list. She
had a little home of her own, next door to the par-
sonage, and some money in the bank ; but what
healthy independent New England woman is satis-
fied to fold her hands until she is obliged to ? So
of course Miss Hancock took up dress-making and
And in the sick-room she found a new kingdom.
Her voice, naturally strong and decided, sank to a
most sympathetic purring — not a whisper, that
rasping, nerve-tearing whisper which makes a pa-
tient frantic and gives him a wild desire to raise the
roof and send the nurse flying up toward the starry
heavens, but a calm, cheerful, even tone which
made a man hope to live, or, if he must die, glad to
be in so good hands at the last.
But Miss Hancock was valued quite as much for
what she was as for what she did. She was intel-
ligent and original, a " great reader," and very fond
of good poetry. She admired Bryant and Long-
fellow and Whittier, but if she found in the Standard
32 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
a little poem which struck her fancy she embalmed
it in her memory and pasted it in her scrap-book in
close companionship with " Thanatopsis " or some
other " rich relation," as she said.
As she would pick a blue violet whose hue was
deeper than that of its neighbors, so she was con-
stantly discovering these little gems of poetry and
prose ; and many a time her sharp shears paused in
their legitimate work of pattern-cutting to rescue
them from some old newspaper. " Rare birds fly
low sometimes, so don't look for all the singers in
the tops of trees," she would say. Looking back
through the years, one sees certain characters clearly
outlined against the horizon of his youth. Others
are forgotten or recalled with difficulty ; but these,
through an individuality which was not fully recog-
nized then, are like friends of yesterday. The tone
of voice, the peculiar gesture, the varying expres-
sion, are all remembered. Miss Hancock is such a
character. If she were not this digression would
have been shorter. On this particular day, however,
at half past three in the afternoon, Miss Hancock
closed and locked the door of her little house, put
the key in her pocket, looked back to see if the
curtains were all drawn, and then hastened down
street toward Esquire Fletcher's. This pleasant
home was just outside the village, surrounded by
trees and shrubbery and beds of blooming flowers ;
while beyond was the farm, comprising acres of
Miss Hancock's brisk walk terminated when she
reached the garden, for she never could get past
Mrs. Fletcher's flowers without bending over them
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 33
a moment for a breath of their fragrance. But the
next moment she walked in through the wide cool
hall, and tapped on the sitting-room door.
"Yes, it's me," said she, in response to a cordial
greeting. " I started to come at seven o'clock, cal-
culating to finish your dress before this time, but
such a time 's I've had. I expect from appearances
my Sunday-school boys are all going to enlist — all
but two. Johnny Dyke is lame, and Charles Clark
isn't eighteen. I tell you I feel like a lone pelican
upon the house-top. Where's the scissors, Ruby?
I'll work and talk, too."
" Never mind the work ; tell us about the boys,"
said Ruby, clasping her hands tightly, as was her
habit when excited.
" Well, first come Hiram Follinsbee, and wanted
me to talk with his wife. So I went over and stayed
an hour, maybe, getting her calmed down. Of course
I didn't tell her, but I couldn't help thinking that
Hiram would do better for her in the army than
anywhere else. He's a great strong man, and will
do a good day's work for any body but Hiram Fol-
linsbee. Take him at home and he's real shif'less.
But then, she thinks he's perfection, and that's all
the law requires. Well, next come Don Lester, to
hand me some work I got his mother to help me
finish off; and when I asked him what he thought
of the sermon he said he indorsed it, and if his
mother would consent he should go with the boys."
" His mother never will consent, I'm sure. Why,
Donald is all she has," said Mrs. Fletcher.
"Yes, but you can't tell. She's one of these
quiet, long-suffering women that wouldn't say a
34 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
word if Don thought 'twas duty to go. That's my
opinion of her, though, of course, living here so few
years, we none of us feel much acquainted. Well,
then, don't you think ! That Mrs. Smith drove down
from the mountain, and wanted to get me to make
some fine shirts for her boys! She's bound they
shall have every thing nice if they go. I had to
laugh ! I told her they wouldn't want fine bosom-
shirts if they went to war. If you believe it, she was
real disappointed ; for she had her butter-money, and
she just wanted to lay it out on her three boys. I
told her there'd be ways enough to spend it before
they left. On the way down she heard that Abram
Steele and Joe Armstrong and the Hickey boys
would likely enlist, and O, dear me, who'll be left,
I wonder ! There's your father with the paper,
Ruby. Do ask him to come in and tell us the
" Father always wears his spectacles to the post-
office now, so he needn't lose a minute," said Ruby,
as she ran out.
"There's no special news to-day," said Esquire
Fletcher as he seated himself, "only a summing up
of particulars about McClellan's retreat. Seven
days' fighting on the way, winding up with Malvern
Hill, you know — just before the last call for three
hundred thousand more. Our side lost more than
fifteen thousand men, and didn't take Richmond
either. I declare it's enough to make a man sw — "
"There, Mr. Fletcher, don't say it," interposed
his wife. "Of course you don't know how many
difficulties he has to contend with."
"That's so; but if the Lord's got a man any-
PLOWSHARES INTO SWORDS. 35
where that can take that splendid army and do
something with it I wish he'd fetch him along. I
wouldn't wonder a bit if Lee marched up through
Maryland and took Washington while our men are
fugling round down there."
"Well," sighed Miss Hancock, "it seems that
our boys will be needed."
" Needed ? Yes, indeed ! Our Gilead boys have
got to go down there and show them how to do it ;"
and the old gentleman looked at Ruby with a
meaning smile. She tried bravely to return it, but
it was a failure. She turned to the window and hid
her face, thinking of the fifteen thousand brave boys
who would never come back.
36 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
A PASTORAL VISIT.
" ' Yes, we'll rally round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting — ' "
" T)ENJAMIN,please don't sing that anymore;"
\~J and Mrs. Steele turned toward the boy who
was singing at the top of his voice — a voice that
was just now trying to decide where it belonged,
and breaking in unexpected places — one of the
many patriotic songs which surged through the
North clear as bugle-calls, arousing all hearts to a
new enthusiasm. Benjie sat down and removed his
big straw hat.
" It keeps runnin' in my head, mother," said he.
" I tell you it sounded good when Miss Bailey sung
it last night at the concert. She was all dressed in
white, you know, and she had a big flag — "
But his mother had left the room, and Esther
patiscd, broom in hand, to say :
" Now, Benjie, don't you trouble mother so. She
feels bad about Abram's going, and you ought to be
careful. What's the news? Is the recruiting office
" Will be to-morrow. I went round by Judge
Plumley's office while the horse was bein' shod, and
lots of men was there. Wint Allen's home, struttin'
'round in his uniform, and John Bartlett — he's come
A PASTORAL VISIT. 37
from Boston. Some of the boys think he expects
to be captain of the new company. Don Stanley
rode to the corner with me, and he's goin'. His
mother said — well, what's the matter with you ? O,
I know — you like him ; you like him ! " and the un-
feeling boy doubled up over his straw hat, more
amused than alarmed by his sister's evident distress.
" Benjie Steele ! " gasped Esther, while her face
grew as red as it had been white, " don't you dare
say one word. Why, I'm ashamed of you. Now,
Benjie ! "
" Well, you get me a big hunk of pie and I wont.
I don't care. He's a good feller. Like him if you
want to; " and with this brotherly sanction Benjie
seized the wedge of pie which had been speedily
brought, settled his hat with one dextrous thrust,
and ran away.
Esther sat down and covered her face, surprised
and ashamed that she had betrayed her secret, and,
above all, overwhelmed by the news. They had
thought Don would never leave his mother; but
now — well, what right had she to grieve ? He had
been friendly and polite, nothing more ; and Esther
took herself to task at once with all the conscien-
tiousness of a girl trained to a Puritanic modesty
and reticence. She seized the broom and began
work with redoubled energy. Meanwhile her
thoughts ran on according to a law of their own, and
tears came to her eyes in spite of indignant protest.
Don Stanley and his mother had come to Gilead
several years before and settled near the mills just
below the village, where he obtained employment ;
but, the location proving unfavorable, he had hired
38 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
a little house not far from Joe Armstrong's, where
his mother might have the benefit of mountain air,
and walked every day to and from his work. They
had a humble home and lived in a modest way, but
there were certain indications that they had seen
"better days." The widow, in her fine, plain black
dresses and clinging crape, with her refined manner
and speech, was accused of " feeling above her
neighbors ; " while Don, who was like her, only with
the advantages of youth and strength, was called
" stuck-up " by his uncouth associates. But a few
friends they had won, among whom were Abram
and Esther, Miss Hancock, and Ruby Fletcher,
all of whom respected their well-bred reserve, and
felt, as Miss Hancock expressed it, that " where
they came from and whether they had any ' folks '
or not was their own business. Any body could see
with half an eye that they had an ancestry."
And this young man, erect, polite, intelligent, so
much like those of whom Esther had read, had un-
wittingly won more than her friendship. Poor Es-
ther ! She felt that sultry morning that the war was
no longer " down South," but right there in Gilead,
invading homes, breaking hearts. Somehow the
spirit of loyalty which had enabled her to bear the
thought of Abram 's going was not sufficiently
strong to meet this emergency. She hurried from
one duty to another impetuously, upbraiding her-
self for the pain that would not be " disciplined,"
fretted by the heated kitchen and the never-ending
routine of housework. But the dinner-hour, so full
of weariness, was at length over. The work was
" done up," as New Englanders say, and at three
A PASTORAL VISIT. 39
o'clock the farm-house, within and without, was
ready for a quiet afternoon. Even the hens seemed
to understand the programme, for, after bristling
and clucking about the yard all the forenoon, they
retreated to the currant-bushes or plum-trees, under
which they quietly reveled in nests which they hol-
lowed for themselves in the warm dust.
From a distant field came the voices of the men
at work, mingled with the rattle of machinery, and
there was in the air a murmur of insect life ; but all
sounds were muffled by the heat, which made the
sunshine itself look faded as it quivered through
trees whose leaves hung limp and motionless. On
a board by the woodshed was a shining pyramid of
tin pans and pails and an empty churn whose clean
" flyers " hinted of aching arms. Crossing the well-
swept " shed- room," we catch a glimpse of the
kitchen with white floor and well-blacked stove, be-
hind which sits the "wood-box" full of wood,
"hard and soft," it being one of Benjie's daily
afflictions to keep it well supplied. Near a wide
lounge, in an old rocker which swung to and fro with
many a complaining creak, sat Mrs. Steele, braiding
rags to be coiled and sewed " round and round "
into a rug, which, once finished, would last nearly
a life-time. Flies buzzed sleepily on the little win-
dow-panes, and in the side door opening into an
entry between kitchen and sitting-room lay Carlo,
a handsome foxy-looking dog, extended at full
length. In the sitting-room an old-fashioned brass
clock ticked lazily — the children said it always knew
when rest-time came, and lost its sharp peremptory
tone — and at either end of the broad shelf which
40 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
held it were piles of newspapers. There was a
book-case with glass doors and a home-made desk
neatly covered, which was Abram's property. A
spider-legged melodeon, a three-and-a-half-octave
instrument of wonderful capacity, stood between
the two west windows ; and in the middle of the
floor was a large table, hinting at family gatherings
at " meal time " and on long evenings. The floor,
as you saw it between round and oblong rugs, was
"spruce yellow," smooth and shining.
Here Esther sat in her pink calico afternoon dress,
holding her work, but not sewing, only idly tracing
figures on the window-pane, against which the lilac
bushes outside tapped and scratched. She was still
grieving, as girls will grieve over a first sorrow ; but
sorrow seldom has a whole afternoon to itself; and
Esther's reverie was interrupted by her mother, who
hurried in, exclaiming,
" Quick, Esther, open the parlor. The minister and
his wife are coming, and I must get on my best
cap ! "
She had barely time to roll up the curtains, raise
the windows, and remove Mary's best bonnet from
the table before the Rev. G. Harmon Phelps and
his wife were ushered in by her mother, whose
" best cap " gave slight indications of a hasty adjust-
Mrs. Steele shook up the feather cushion in the
rocking-chair to a plumper puffiness, and begged
the minister to sit down ; but with due respect for
the heat, and his wife, he generously waved her to-
ward the cushion and seated himself upon what
was called a " settee," a sort of wooden sofa with
A PASTORAL VISIT. 4i
rockers. Esther slipped away for a moment to put
on a white apron, smooth her hair afresh, and ex-
amine her eyes to see if they gave evidence of the
tears that were constantly threatening to overflow.
Meanwhile her father had put the minister's horse
in the barn with a generous supply of oats before
him, and then limped into the house as fast as pos-
sible to make himself ready to entertain his honored
guest. For in this home, always open to ministers,
there still prevailed an old-fashioned idea that a
servant of the King was to be treated with special
During these preliminaries the minister and his
wife were examining the daguerreotypes and books
arranged upon the table, the pictures that hung
upon the wall, and smiling a little over the mantel
ornaments — a plaster-of-paris bouquet, balanced by
a kneeling Samuel of the same material, a huge
conch shell, and a pair of glass candlesticks each
holding a fresh tallow candle. These last were not
for ornament, but use, as Mr. Steele cherished the
opinion that ''kerosene was 'mazin' unsafe."
This young couple had had the misfortune to be
reared in a city, hence they were constantly meet-
ing the "unexpected" in their pastoral visits;
and sometimes it took the form of bric-a-brac and
sometimes that of the people themselves. And
the minister was often quite as much interested
in one as the other. He had begun his work in
the ministry honestly believing that he had some
new " methods " that would regulate society ; and
he came to Gilead expecting the people would
crowd to hear him ; expecting they would regard
42 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
him with a sort of worshipful affection. But to
his surprise, after listening a few Sabbaths, they
began to grow indifferent ; and, as the summer heat
increased, the honest farmers who had worked hard
through the week would settle down comfortably in
their pews and go to sleep almost before he had
announced his text. This was very discouraging,
and he told his wife confidentially that he did not
believe any other man ever had such an ignorant,
unappreciative audience as his was.
Like all young ambitious souls, he was meeting
difficulties that had been met and overcome by
thousands of his brethren ; but every David has to
face his own Goliath, who always looks taller and
stronger to him than any other giant that was ever
seen or heard of. In that "dark age" of pulpit-
building he was architecturally raised high above
the people, and constitutionally and theologically
he was elevated still higher, so that really he was
a long distance from the " five smooth stones " that
still lay in the brook.
When on the previous Sabbath he saw his vener-
able brother in the ministry, who had no alma
mater, hurling thunder-bolts right and left ; when
he saw old and young awake and excited, moved
and melted in turn, he was well-nigh distracted ;
and he told his wife — that long-suffering little
woman, who had to bear all his inconsistencies dur-
ing this erratic period — that Mr. Putnam had taken
advantage of his knowledge of slavery, politics, etc.,
to arouse the people. For his part he questioned
the propriety of such a course. He thought the
civil war was an abominable mistake which might
A PASTORAL VISIT. 43
have been prevented " if, and if; " until Mr. Phelps,
who did not realize " the spring of all his woes,"
felt constrained to advocate " pastoral calls,"
hoping thus to change the tide of his thought.
This was one cause of the visit at Mr. Steele's, which,
after a brief distraction, as already noted, progressed
much after the usual fashion, save that Mrs. Phelps,
with watchful skill, prevented any reference to the
war or the " war sermon." And so a couple of
hours passed, and Mary came home from school,
and the sun crept around to the west windows,
sending its slanting rays through shielding rose-
bushes, on which birds sat and swung, peeping in at
the busy talkers.
And then Esther and her mother withdrew to pre-
pare tea, and the boys came from the field tired
and hot, to be intercepted and hurried up-stairs
that they might make a little extra preparation
before meeting " the minister's folks." And then
came supper, heralded by a delightful odor of tea
and warm cream biscuits, and other uncommonly
" Abram," said the minister as he broke one of
the biscuits, "how will you enjoy soldier's fare after
eating such dainties as these? "
" Not very well, I dare say," was the hearty an-
swer; " but Uncle Sam can hardly be expected to
furnish home fare."
" I hope you will have an appetite for what you
get, so many of the boys are sick in camp. I
think more and more that this war is a stupendous
mistake," continued Mr. Phelps, while his wife
vainly tried to introduce another subject.
44 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" Of course it is a mistake, but not ours," an-
swered Abram. " We fight to defend our rights
and protect the helpless. I thought the sermon last
Sunday proved that clearly enough. Didn't you?"
" Well, really, I can't say that I did ; " and the
minister balanced his spoon thoughtfully on the
edge of his cup. " These are days that call for
caution and reserve in expressing our opinions.
Love of country is strong, but there are many ar-
guments that should be dispassionately considered.
Before I could venture to discuss the subject I
should take time for extensive research and calm
Several pairs of eyes were directed inquiringly to-
ward him as he closed his remark, from which the
family failed to gather just what his opinion was.
Abram 's eyes had a mischievous expression, al-
though his tones were perfectly respectful as he
" Well, you know the presiding elder has a chance
at us but once in three months, and he can't afford
to be very deliberate. He has to give us his ideas
hot and heavy."
" Yes ; and we must remember, too, that he is
an old antislavery man," added Mr. Steele. " I've
heard him off and on now for a good many years,
and I never heard him make the opening prayer
without praying for ' our colored brother in chains.'
Always did, years ago, when nobody else thought
of doing it."
As a Christian Mr. Phelps was touched by this
testimony, but with perverse jealousy he con-
A PASTORAL VISIT. 45
" Well, if prayer and practice go together in this
case, I will admit that he is a rare exception.
Would he love his ' colored brother ' as well if he
were a little nearer, think you ? "
Mr. Steele's children had rarely seen any sign of
excitement in their father's face ; but now they
noticed a red flush under the coat of tan.
" Have another biscuit, brother," said he, "and
let me give you some more honey. Benjie, pass the
cheese. May be you never heard how the elder
took the place of a runaway slave once ?"
" No, I'm a Jersey man, you know. Let us hear
how he did it," said the minister, who had not no-
ticed any rise in the temperature.
" Well, there was a branch of the under-ground
railroad not a thousand miles from here, that used
to do a pretty lively business ; and Dyke's hotel,
down to the Center, was one of the stopping-places.
Mr. Putnam lived there then, and old Dr. Snow ;
both of 'em in the business. One night a poor lost-
lookin' fellow come to the tavern, black, but not so
black as some, on his way to Canada. Well, Dyke
give him a good supper and bed accordin' to in-
struction ; and they said they would let him sleep
till five o'clock the next morning and get him away
before folks was stirring much. But he hadn't
more 'n got to sleep when up rode two men all in
a white heat after a ' runaway nigger,' as they said.
They said they'd tracked him there, and they must
sarch that house high and low ; and they raged
round the bar-room swearin' like troopers. Well,
Mr. Dyke didn't know what to do. He sent a boy
out the back door to fetch the elder and old Dr.
46 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
Snow, and then he laid himself out to keep them
men in the bar-room. He got 'em to the fire, and
mixed some toddy, and got 'em to describe the
runaway, and bustled 'round as if he'd turn the
house upside-down for them. You know Thomas
Dyke out to the village ? "
The minister bowed affirmation.
" Well, this was his father — nervous and fussy by
nature, and Thomas takes after him. Well, when
he couldn't keep 'em any longer in the bar-room,
then the lights begun to bother ; and he got all the
girls to running over each other fetching more of
'em ; but at last he actually took the men up-stairs.
Then he went about routing up two or three ped-
dlers, and soon till he was fairly obleeged to open
that door. When he see the black head on the pil-
low he said he was almost faint, to think nothin'
had been done; but when he looked a little closer
he suspected how it was, and says he, 'This must
be your man, gentlemen, but you better let him
sleep now you have him safe, and not make a fuss
to-night, for I keep a quiet house.' He kept wav-
in' 'em back and whisperin', but he said they was
wild to get hold of him, and one of 'em drew out
his pistol and leveled it at the bed and swore he'd
make a hole through the rascal's head. But Dyke
threatened he'd put 'em out if they made so much
noise ; so after swearin' till every thing was blue
they made him lock the door on the outside and
give them the key, and went down to the bar-
room, saying that after havin' supper they'd take
turns watchin' the door till morning. Dyke said
he hoped to be forgiven, but he got 'em both
A PASTORAL VISIT. 47
drunk as fools before midnight. Then, of course,
he found out how matters stood.
" While he was hinderin' 'em at first, the elder
and Dr. Snow got the runaway dressed in a new
suit and into the doctor's carriage and off on the
road toward Canada line.
" Then the elder, he crept into bed, and, being a
very dark-complected man, he hoped to deceive
the slave-catchers, just as he did."
" How did he feel when he heard them talking
about shooting him ? " asked the minister, so in-
terested that he stopped eating.
" He said he felt sorry that he forgot to kiss his
wife and children before he left home."
There was a moment's silence.
" He's always been that kind of a helpful man,"
added Mr. Steele, " and I can't help thinkin' it's the
right sperit. It's the sperit that brought the Lord
from heaven to take our place when we was in bond-
age, at any rate."
" It is a beautiful, grand spirit, I am sure," said
Mrs. Phelps, warmly ; " I shall admire Mr. Putnam
more than ever, now I have heard this story."
"Yes; I am sure he has shown that he can prac-
tice as well as preach," said her husband, frankly.
Mr. Steele nodded approvingly.
" You get a notion, too, of the way he feels about
the war. It isn't no political question with him,
it's the story of the Israelites in Egypt over again.
He sees the Lord's hand in it all ; and when he
advocates fightin' he calculates it's in the interests
of truth and righteousness."
At that moment a horse was heard slowly tramp-
48 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
ing across the chip-yard, followed by the noise of
wheels, and looking out they saw the hero of their
conversation in his old wagon, with a buffalo-robe
thrown over the seat, drawn by an ancient horse
that he valued highly because it " never interfered
with his meditations."
" Talk of angels and you hear their wings,"
laughed Abram, as he hurried out to the old min-
Mr. Phelps could but notice the loving reverence
with which the entire family regarded this man ;
and he himself took his hand as he entered, dimly
suspecting that he had the honor of meeting a lineal
descendant of "prophets, priests, and kings," and in
consequence feeling for an instant his own inferior-
ity. Any one who remembers " sixty-two," and
how one great theme was always before the people,
can understand that conversation did not lag dur-
ing the next hour. All work was suspended, and
Esther and Mary, with rapt faces, sat silent near
Mrs. Phelps, wondering as they listened, to hear
Abram talk so wisely and so well as he kindled in
animation under the elder's magic influence.
And in the dusky twilight the cows came lowing
down the lane, forgotten by the enchanted boy, Ben-
jamin, who in his quiet corner drank in the spirit of
the times and " only wished 't he was six years older."
And when in a matter-of-fact tone the old hero
announced that he was " on his last round of visits,"
and should offer himself as chaplain or " any thing
else they can make of me," there was a unanimous
expression that there could be no place too good
for him. And the Rev. G. Harmon Phelps felt
A PASTORAL VISIT. 40
that there was really something in this devotion to
principle that would bear investigating.
After the visitors were gone and all was again
quiet Esther leaned from her window to enjoy the
cool odorous wind which blew noiselessly across
the fields ; and, recalling her experience of the
morning, was surprised that the bitterness of her
grief was all gone. There was still the thought of
personal suffering, but above it sounded the key-
note of the sentiments to which she had listened,
" The oppressed must go free ! "
50 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
A STRANGE TEST.
ABRAM rode rapidly toward the village on his
black colt, Gypsy. It was afternoon, and he
felt a little impatient that his duties should have
kept him so long from the recruiting office, for, after
a man decides to do a thing, especially if it is in the
line of self-sacrifice, he feels impatient until the
preliminaries are settled. But in spite of haste he
took the roundabout road that led past Ruby's
home, and had the pleasure of seeing her sitting
with her sewing, half-hidden by the vines, as he
checked Gypsy at the gate. She came down the
garden-path, stopping to pick some clove pinks for
his button-hole, and he noticed that her dress of blue
lawn was charmingly becoming, while the knot of
red, white, and blue ribbons which she wore at her
throat he took as a subtile compliment to himself.
Her face — but what are features described in de-
tail? — it was a healthy, happy face, with a trick of
changing its expression as her feelings changed.
Ruby could look very resolute and decided, and she
could look very tender and confiding. Her best
friends said, " She will make a splendid woman,"
indicating that Ruby in the present tense was un-
disciplined and somewhat wayward, but full of grand
possibilities. Abram, however, did not look into
the future, or speculate as to what Ruby might be
A STRANGE TEST. 51
in the days to come. As she looked up at him
with a smile that betrayed two dimples he was fully
satisfied with her present perfection.
" I know where you are going," said she, with a
tremor in her voice, " and now that the time has
come I don't like it at all."
" It does seem hard, Ruby. May be I wont go
after all ; " and Abram laughed as one will to hide
" Father said if I dared say a word to discourage
you or any one else he would shut me up in the
closet," said Ruby.
" O, that would be dreadful ! I must hurry along
so you wont be tempted to discourage me, then.
Good-bye ; " and yielding to the impatient Gypsy
Abram galloped away.
Ruby looked after him with her hand above her
eyes. He seemed like a brave knight of " ye olden
time " on his coal-black steed, and she was the
" faire ladye " who proved her loyalty by years of
waiting in a moated castle. One of the clove pinks
had fallen from his hand and lay in the grass at
her feet. She picked it up, carried it to her lips,
and then fastened it carefully to the red, white, and
blue ribbons at her throat. Flushing guiltily, she
looked around to see if she were observed ; but no
one was in sight but Hiel Sanders, her father's hired
man, who was too near-sighted to be feared. He
stood at the pump drinking from the tin dipper. As
he hung it up with a satisfied grunt he remarked :
" That wuz Abram Steele, wuzn't it? Steps like
his black colt. Ruther went round Robin Hood's
barn comin' this road, didn't he?"
52 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
This remark was made rather aimlessly, partly to
show that he knew very well why Abram came that
way, partly because Hiel liked to be "sociable."
Martha Thompson, who had just come to the
kitchen window with a pan of fresh ginger-snaps in
her hand, answered with a sharp, " S'posin' he did
come this way? I guess he's a perfec' right to
while he can. 'Twont be many days 'fore this
town '11 be like a silent tomb. Every body's goin'
to war, seems 's if, 'ceptin' you 'nd a few other old
Hiel laughed good-naturedly and snatched a
couple of cakes from the pan.
" Wal, Marthy, 's long ez me V Job Smith don't
go you wont have no call to put on mournin'."
Martha aimed the long fork she held in her hand
at him, but he strode away still laughing, while she
was trying to find words to express her contempt
for Job Smith and all other " men folks."
Meanwhile Abram rode swiftly past the " com-
mon " and stopped at the post-office which occupied
one side of a brick building, the other side being
filled with "dry goods, groceries, and notions," be-
longing to Elijah Green.
Ira Barstow was postmaster, and, being deformed,
he had been continued year after year until he
seemed an essential part of the institution.
When he saw Abram he took a letter and some
papers from his box and handed them to him, re-
marking as he did so that there " was quite lively
times over to the jedge's office."
"Yes, I think I'll go and see the judge myself,"
said Abram, smiling and nodding as he went out.
A STRANGE TEST. 53
Mr. Barstow followed him as far as the front win-
dow, apparently just for the pleasure of seeing the
strong, cheery fellow on his way to the "jedge's."
Every nerve in his misshapen body tingled with
patriotism, but he could only show it by encourag-
ing others to do their duty.
Abram was about to slip the letter in his pocket,
but observing that, although it came from Boston,
the superscription was not in Austin's hand, he
tore open the envelope, and, still standing on the
store-steps, read its contents, which were as fol-
"Abram Steele, Esq. —
" Dear Sir : Having found the above address in
the room formerly occupied by Austin Steele, and
supposing it to be his father's, we use it at this
time. We are under the painful necessity of in-
forming you that your son, after being in our em-
ploy nearly a year, has been guilty of theft, and has
absconded with the money stolen, probably to join
the army. It is impossible for us to ascertain our
losses, but, considering your son's youth and the
high recommendations which he brought, referring
in the highest terms to yourself and family, we have
decided to settle the matter for one thousand dol-
lars, which amount you will please remit at your
earliest convenience. Your obedient servants,
" L. Webber & Co."
If Abram had been a woman he probably would
have fainted. As it was, he grasped the railing of
the platform and stood for a moment waiting until
54 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
his surroundings again assumed a natural appear-
The postmaster, still watching him, felt almost
impatient that a young fellow about to "volunteer"
should stand there " so numb like " as he afterward
said. Poor little hunchback ! He need not have en-
vied Abram his size or strength at that moment of
supreme wretchedness. " He aint going near the
recruiting office. What in Texas does that mean?"
said he to himself when, a little later, he saw Abram
mount Gypsy and ride away toward home.
But Abram had no idea of going home then.
Instead, he rode down past the mills and then on
and on through a lonely wooded part of the town.
For some time he was not capable of connected
thought ; and when at length he said to himself
that he must think, he must plan, he dared not
admit even to himself how he felt toward his
brother. Anger, unmeasured and unmitigated
anger, rose in his soul; but as one shuts his lips
tight and refuses to let unrighteous words escape,
so one sometimes imprisons dangerous thoughts,
shutting them away from even his own investiga-
tions. But while Abram thus turned the key upon
his murderous and revengeful thoughts toward his
brother there were others which took very definite
form ; and poor Gypsy, whose coat was wet with
sweat, was allowed to walk while her master's
meditations ran on. " It was lucky that letter didn't
reach father." This was the first calming considera-
tion, and it weighed much with Abram. " It would
have just about killed him. And he mustn't know
it — nor mother — nor the girls! May be there's an
A STRANGE TEST. 55
awful mistake, for how it could be possible — " and
Gypsy jumped as Abram's hand came down upon
her sensitive flesh. A long quivering breath, and
he said aloud, as if to give it additional force, " I
must keep this to myself! Nobody must know!
But how can I ever raise a thousand dollars, and
how can I enlist with this burden upon me?"
This was the hardest point to settle. Austin
was gone. If he went there would be no one to care
for the parents and to raise this sum of money which
looked so very, very large. But if Austin could be
found and brought back, who wanted the family
disgraced in that way? Better that he should fall
on some battle-field and sleep in an unknown grave
than that he should blacken the name that had so
far been honest and honorable.
Abram turned his horse, for there were dark
shadows in the woods, which told that the day was
almost done. His head felt heavy, his brain weary ;
but one thing was clear ; he alone must bear the
burden that had so unexpectedly fallen upon him,
unless and until that dreadful letter could be ex-
plained. This decision his judgment approved,
even while he felt that in making it he was thrust-
ing from him all that was most desirable in life.
But there was one comforting thought. He would
go to Ruby that night and tell her as much as he
could of the story, and she would understand and
sympathize with him and keep his secret until the
mystery could be explained or buried. The clove
pinks were still in his button-hole, and as he bent
his head he caught their perfume, and said softly, " I
can bear 'most any thing as long as I have Ruby."
56 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
At that moment he heard the sound of rapidly
approaching wheels, and the next met Esquire
Fletcher and John Bartlett.
They stopped, and John called out in his brisk
" Why, Steele, where have you been all day ?
The office has been just about full. Lots of the
boys are going. I looked for you among the first."
" Yes," added Mr. Fletcher, " I heard a number
inquiring for you, and understood you were there
at one time."
" No," said Abram, slowly, " I haven't been in
Judge Plumley's office to-day. I expected to be,
but certain things came up that have changed my
plans, and I find I can't enlist just now ; I'm sorry ; "
and he concluded with a smile that had no mirth
Mr. Fletcher look puzzled, and John Bartlett
smoothed his mustache thoughtfully.
" Well," said the former, " I'm surprised. What
in the world — ahem ! I hope nothing serious has
happened ? "
" So do I," said Bartlett, heartily. " I'm disap-
pointed. Well, if you change your mind let me
know right away, will you ? "
Abram bowed and the gentlemen drove on, leav-
ing him to ride toward home more heavily burdened
than before. His supper was waiting for him, all
the others having eaten at the usual time ; and
Benjie was also waiting, full of interest and curios-
"Say, Abram, how does it seem to be enlisted?
I guess you was tall enough, wasn't you ? The
A STRANGE TEST. 57
Hickey boys stopped a minute, but they hadn't
happened to see you. You'd have thought they'd
been to the county fair, they was so pleased. Did
Don Stanley put his name down?" and Benjie
rolled his eyes toward Esther.
" I don't know, Benjie, whether Don enlisted to-
day or not, for I haven't been in the recruiting
office myself. I have concluded not to give my
name just yet."
Benjie gave a prolonged " Whew ! " while Mr.
Steele laid down the Tribune and looked up inquir-
" Did you say you had decided not to go? " he
asked ; and his mother and sisters waited breath-
lessly for his answer.
" Yes, sir ; that was what I said, but I guess you
all want me to go down there and get popped over
by the rebels, you look so solemn."
" No; we are all glad to have you here as long as
possible, but we didn't suppose you could be hired
to stay. What does it mean?"
It was hard to face the anxious family, but Abram
had made up his mind not to give them any clew at
present to the true reason ; so he answered as un-
concernedly as possible :
"Well, father, I wish I could tell you all about
it, but I can't — not yet, anyway. But don't you
feel worried, because I'll try to make myself useful
here on the farm."
" Yes, but Austin could do a great deal. He'll
think strange when you've written to him to come
home. He is such a wide-awake, plucky fellow. I
wouldn't a mite wonder if he got a notion to go him-
58 THE G 1 LEAD GUARDS.
self, for I s'pose he hears a sight of brave talk in
such a big place as Boston."
Abram felt actually cold with the effort he made
to appear natural; but remarking that he didn't feel
hungry, and that he had to be away a while, he put
on his hat and hurried off, glad to escape further
questioning and comment.
His ring at Esquire Fletcher's door was answered
by Martha Thompson, who always labored under
the impression that she should open the door upon
a peddler or a book agent, and had a stereotyped
welcome for that class ; but when she saw who it
was she added, " O, step in ! " and he entered the
hall, asking if Miss Ruby were at home.
" I guess so ; I'll see," said Martha, nervously, and
she hurried into the sitting-room, leaving the door
ajar behind her. A moment more and he heard
Ruby's clear tones:
" No, I wont see him. If he can change his mind
so quick, I guess other people can change theirs."
" Ruby ! Ruby ! " said her father.
" But you said yourself there was no account-
ing for it. I just wish I was a man, and I
would — "
Abram did not wait to hear what she would do,
but, turning, he went rapidly and silently down the
stone steps into the darkness of desolation. Not
that it was really dark, for the moon was just ris-
ing and a flood of clear light filled the world with
beauty, but Abram, rushing along with set teeth
and clinched hands, was not in a mood to notice
it. The experience of the afternoon had seemed all
he could bear ; but that trouble was like a burden
A STRANGE TEST. 59
upon the shoulders compared with this which
pierced his heart.
Abram had never formulated his views even to
himself, but he had, nevertheless, a modest idea
that he was ready to face " the world, the flesh, and
the devil," ^nd rout them without the least diffi-
culty ; but he had never imagined such an attack
as this. It struck him on all sides — his ambition,
reputation, honor, hope, love. He felt as if he
had been shaken and stripped of them all and
dropped by the way-side !
And at such times there is always a tempting
spirit near laden with suggestions, even as, many,
many years ago, Satan himself came to tempt One
who was alone in the wilderness. To walk on and
on, and put miles between himself and the old
home before morning, to enlist and go with the
company and leave his father to find out about
Austin at his leisure, to jump into the river which
gurgled near between banks darkly outlined by
masses of alders — all these temptations, and many
another vaguely desperate scheme, came and seemed
for the moment like open doors offering him a
chance to escape.
If he had been a loosely constructed, unbelieving
modern theorist he would probably have yielded to
one or another, for he was carried quite beyond
himself by forces he could not understand ; but the
man who has really learned to obey law and believe
in its righteousness hears a " Thus far and no far-
ther " above all other voices. Any one who has
followed in summer-time the course of a river has
noticed once and again high bridges, supported by
60 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
massive buttresses, spannirg a chasm through which,
far down among the shadows, glided an insignifi-
cant stream. To a careless observer stone and iron
at such a height seem quite superfluous ; but when
in early spring a thousand torrents rush into the
chasm and the river rises foaming to its highest
shore, threatening to overleap all barriers and sweep
away property and life, then is seen the wisdom of
solid walls of masonry, of buttress, beam, and iron
bolt. Men understand the possibilities of a decep-
tive little river and guard against their harmful
tendencies. God understands the possibilities of
the most quiet and undemonstrative life, of all lives,
in fact, and arches his laws strong and high above
them — laws which look quite superfluous until they
are needed, but which always prove sufficiently
strong to guard and restrain, unless willful rebellion
or insanity carries one beyond all restraints. Abram
did not think of these things until long after that
night. He simply felt then as though he were
being held, and he said, too, that a quaint couplet
learned years before from an old almanac recurred
to his mind with persistent force :
" When all the blandishments of life are gone
The coward sneaks to death, the brave live on."
It was later — after he had walked miles, after the
last twinkling light in solitary farm-houses had dis-
appeared, after he had turned his face toward home
determined to " bear all things and endure all
things" — that he received the reward of obedience.
His training in religious matters had certainly been
deficient, for, although he was a church member
A STRANGE TEST. 61
and quoted as an example of integrity and positive
goodness, he had never learned to think of his
Elder Brother as a personal friend. So now, while
he had yielded to law, his heart was still empty and
cold and sorely wounded, and he felt himself pecul-
iarly alone. But as he walked along the silent
country road, so silent that the murmurings in the
trees seemed but the breathing of nature's tiny
children asleep in nests and mossy hollows, he
turned half around with a feeling that some one
was near. There was no visible presence, but the
strong impression still remained and increased until
he felt that beside him was a Friend who understood
all his trials, who sympathized with him per-
fectly, and imparted a strength that came from no
" arm of flesh ; " and his heart, now filled with
wonder and gratitude, recognized in that sweet un-
expected companionship the blessed presence of a
divine Comrade. He bowed his head and sank
upon his knees, accepting as never before his Lord
and Master, and realizing that whatever his future
might be he had a Friend who would be to him
more than a brother. He went to his rest that
night with this new-found confidence ; and never
afterward could he forget how over the strong cold
heights of law came love, with blessings unmeas-
ured, making the path of duty bright with His
62 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
A PECULIAR ANGEL.
WITH bird twitterings and cock-crowings and
slow unfolding of cloud curtains the next
morning dawned. In a leisurely way the sun crept
up over the eastern hills, as if to give time for yawn-
ing and a backward glance into dreamland before
it sent its direct beams into upper windows. Then
smoke began to curl from chimney-tops, and here
and there sleepy boys made their way to the yards
where cows still lay ruminating. The cock-crowing
continued until the sun was fairly " up ;" for chanti-
cleer, like some more enlightened bipeds, labors un-
der the hallucination that his crowing in some way
sets the machinery of the world in motion, and hence
he spares neither breath nor voice until he has
brought the great luminary above the horizon. This
duty done, he was ready to descend to a fierce con-
test over corn and crumbs, his greedy clamoring
scarcely surpassed by the pigs, whose starving con-
dition was indicated by uncompromising grunts and
squeals, checked only by generous pails of bonny-
clabber and meal-mush. The lowing cows were
finally released to find their way to green hill past-
ures, while brimming pails of milk were carried to
cool clean dairies or " set " for cheese. The horses
were watered and given their allowance of oats, and
A PECULIAR ANGEL. 63
then, when all the " chores " were done, the farmers
themselves were ready to breakfast.
At Mr. Steele's table that morning there was a
visible restraint. Benjie in a cajoling tone had
begged Abram to tell him " what the matter was "
an hour before, and, not receiving any satisfactory
answer, was in a decidedly sullen mood, and the en-
tire family were sober and anxious. Abram rather
hoped some question would be asked that would
give him an opportunity to repeat what he had said
the night before in a different way ; for he felt as
if he was suspected of some plot, or at least of
insincerity. He did not have the true idea, how-
ever, as he soon discovered ; for before he could leave
the house his mother asked him to step into the parlor
a moment, and when they were alone in the dark
room and the door closed she turned toward him
" Now, Abram," said she, " tell me just what the
trouble is. Is it your heart ? Your Uncle Abram
died of heart disease, but I never thought it would
follow the family. And there was your Grand-
mother Austin, she died of old-fashioned consump-
tion. Is it your lungs, Abram ? Tell me the worst,
and we will see what can be done."
Abram began to laugh ; but as he realized how
his faithful, loving mother must be suffering, his eyes
filled and he put his hand tenderly upon her shoul-
" My lungs and heart are all right, mother, I firmly
believe," said he. "And more than that, I haven't
done any thing disgraceful ; but something has hap-
pened to a friend of mine that will prevent my plans
64 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
being carried out. Now, if you will trust me and
keep still, mother, it will be worth every thing to me
Of course she promised, and sealed it with a kiss ;
but also of course, she was not really satisfied. She
warned the children, however, to ask no questions,
for their brother was all right, and she was only too
thankful he could make up his mind to stay
All this did not satisfy Benjie, and he grew furious
over this first family mystery.
" I declare ! " said he, pacing back and forth,
his cheeks red, his eyes wet, " I didn't s'pose any
of our folks would show the white feather. Might
as well be a skedaddler and done with it. Might as
well be a copperhead. Guess you wouldn't catch
me backin' out. Keep the war goin' a few years
longer, sir, and you'll see a feller go out of this house
that aint afraid of gunpowder."
" O, now, Benjie," expostulated Esther, "you
can talk, but you don't know how it might seem
when the time come. I think whatever keeps
Abram at home is something that makes him feel
" Feel bad enough ! " cried Benjie, wrathfully,
" he better feel bad. He's disgraced me. I'll have
to dodge the boys for fear they'll ask questions, and
I just can't bear it ; " and the poor boy strode away
pulling his hat over his eyes and kicking every
thing that happened to be in his wa)'.
Meanwhile Abram was in his room trying to
think how he could secure the money to send the
avenger, " L. Webber & Co."
A PECULIAR ANGEL. 65
No one unfamiliar with farming communities can
readily understand how large this sum appeared.
People are comfortable, even opulent, with their
farms paid for and the ready money that comes
from harvest sales ; and when in the course of years
their surplus funds accumulate in a bank they are
not in the habit of withdrawing them without very
good reasons for doing so. To lend a thousand
dollars without ample security would indicate that
a man was in his dotage. Abram had two or three
uncles who were "forehanded" living within a ra-
dius of ten miles ; but as he thought of them indi-
vidually and collectively he shook his head. The
inquisitional process through which a person must
pass before he got money of Uncle Rufus or Uncle
Ira or Uncle Mont was enough to make him pre-
fer a place of torture nearer home. He had good
friends at the village, but most of them whom he
could trust were young men like Dr. Adams, Judson
Plumley, and Lawyer Parker, who had not reached
that period in life when they could put as many
ciphers after a unit as this case demanded. At last,
after taking the financial census of Gilead, he hap-
pened to think of Miss Hancock, and with a feel-
ing of relief decided to go to her for at least a part
of the needed amount, To be sure, she was a
woman, and Abram had heard the old tradition
that a woman could not be trusted with a secret ;
but he argued that as she was in most respects su-
perior to her sex so she must be in this ; and he
was soon on Gypsy's back riding toward her little
home. To his great disappointment the curtains
were drawn and the door was locked. The minis-
66 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
ter's wife saw Abrarn, and leaned out of her window
to tell him that Miss Hancock had gone to see a
sick person, and would probably be away several
days. Riding slowly homeward, quite perplexed,
in spite of the peace which he still retained in his
heart, he reached the outer edge of Esquire Fletch-
er's farm, where the orchard was, and heard the
musical ring of a whetted scythe. A sudden thought
inspired him, and, jumping off his horse, he fastened
her to a tree, leaped over the fence, and made his
way toward Hiel Saunders, who, he very well knew,
was preparing to mow the orchard.
" Good-morning, Hiel ; how do you do ? " said he,
as he reached the spot where that worthy stood
gazing meditatively up into an apple-tree, while his
whetstone with a merry "ching! clang! ching ! "
played mechanically up and down the sharp-edged
" O, mornin' ! " answered Hiel, observing his vis-
itor ; " I'm so's to be crawlin', thank ye. How be
yeou ? Hot day to work in the sun, but jest right
here, shady and cool's a cowcumber. I was jest
watchin' them little birds up in the tree, 'n' thinkin'
how odd it seems to mow with a scythe after using
a machine. I do' know how we ever got along
without 'em, I'm sure. But the machines makes it
easier to spare the boys that's goin' to war. One
man c'n du what six use' ter. That's right, set
deown. Stuns aint quite so easy as sofies, but
they'll du." j Hiel hung his scythe upon a limb of
the apple-tree and seated himself on a rock con-
veniently near Abram. " Seems to me I hearn the
squire sayin' you'd about give up 'listin' ; " and Hiel
A PECULIAR ANGEL. 67
plucked a long grass spear and measured it with
his outstretched hand as innocently as though he
and Martha Thompson had not discussed the whole
matter pro and con the previous evening.
"Yes," said Abram, "and that is just what I
want to talk about, Hiel; " and Abram looked with
anxious eyes into his homely, honest face. "' Have
you money that you're not using that you would be
willing to lend?"
" Wal, I've got quite a little money saved up;"
and Hiel chewed the juicy stalk and looked into
the grass at his feet, wondering what was coming
" And if I tell you why I can't enlist and why I
need money will you keep my secret ? "
" I reckon. Fire away ! " and Hiel leaned back in
a listening attitude. And then Abram told the whole
story, only he could not bear to say that the money
had been stolen. It was a debt that Austin had in-
curred and left when he ran away to enlist. " And
now, Hiel," said he, appealingly, " if you can lend
me the money to pay that debt you know you will
get it again with interest if I live. I can't give you
security on the farm, for I own only an undivided
share, but as soon as I get a good offer for Gypsy I
can sell her, and some of the other stock is mine.
I think my Cotswold sheep would bring a big price
by and by, but just now I could only give my
Hiel had wiped his eyes several times while
Abram was talking, and after giving them a final
polish on his shirt-sleeve he straightened himself
and drew a long breath.
68 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" Keep yer critters, Abram ; I don't want no se-
curity, 'nd I don't care nothin' about yer note. Do
as ye please about that. I'll let ye have the money
'cause ye need it. I did hev' a notion to spec'late
with about that much. Brown, son-in-law of Slo-
cum, over there by your place, says there's goin' to
be lots of money in the wool business ; so many
soldier-clothes and army blankets, you know. But
may be I'd lose it all. 'T any rate I ruther you'd
hev' it, 'nd I hope tu gracious it '11 settle up the
business thet's plaguin' of ye."
Abram was so full of gratitude that he could
hardly find voice to express it.
" I shall have a feeling that this is sacred money,
Hiel. It seems to me it has come right down from
heaven by the hands of an angel."
Hiel's big mouth drew up at the corners until it
resembled a half moon, while his eyes twinkled
through reefs of wrinkles.
"A ruther pe-cn-liar angel," he drawled, wonder-
fully pleased, however, with the compliment.
" Guess likely you're thinkin' of them riggers on
old grave-stones. Ever see any ? I used to see
lots of 'em down to Sandown. That's an awful old
teown, 'n' these dark-colored stuns 's all over the
grave-yard. And them Aggers has wings hitched
on to 'em, but their faces aint like pictur'-angels,
not by no means. I hearn two young fellows dis-
putin' one day about it. They was chock full of
learnin', 'n' used lots of big words, but the upshot of
it wuz, one of 'em thought the figger wuz an angel,
'nd t'other thought 'twas one of them things that
flies up from t'other place, a-representin' death 'n'
A PECULIAR ANGEL. 69
the terrors of the tomb. I says to 'em, says I,
' You can't decide that ; but I tell ye what I think
of the man that made the things. He no business
to leave such a doubtful figger. An angel orter
look better 'n that, 'n' t'other kind worse. But
moreover,' says I, ' it makes me think of some folks
I've seen. These wipsy-wopsy people that you
can't tell whuther they're good or whuther they're
bad. They leave a puzzle for comin' generations to
work over.' Says I, ' Let's see tu it that we don't
make folks wonder whuther we're angels or figgers
from t'other places.' "
" Why, Hiel," said Abram, laughing in spite of
himself, " I never knew you were an exhorter before,
but you certainly told them the truth."
" I'm no exhorter, Abram, 'n' squire's wife thinks
I orter go to meetin' more, 'n' jine the church, 'n'
I s'pose I had ; but you see I hearn one of them
young fellers swear a profane oath, 'nd when things
come to thet pass I'm on the side of Him that writ
the third commandment. Yes, sir! I hate to see
young fellers thet's had advantages piled mountain
high, as ye might say, spilin' themselves for this
world 'n' the one tu come. Yes, I du."
Abram rose, thinking that Hiel might be hin-
dered by his long call, and made one more effort to
express his gratitude. " I must ride on now, or
you wont get the orchard mowed to-day. I don't
know how to thank you,* but I shall never, never
forget your kindness to me."
" Wal, never's a long word, but I aint afraid. I
always thought an awful sight of yeou, 'nd I'm glad
to du you a favor. I'll be tu the bank at six o'clock ;
70 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
no, half past three, aint it ? Likely yeou want that
filthy lucre soon 's convenient ; " and Hiel took
down his scythe and passed his finger along the
"Yes," said Abram, " I'll be there ; " and he hur-
ried away through the trees.
After his departure Hiel stood looking after him
with an expression of real concern.
" Wal, neovv," he mused, " what's the dictionary
meanin' of this? There's a figger fer a brigadier-
gineral, and as good a boy as wuz ever raised in
Gilead ; 'n' neow he's got tu give up all his plans,
'n' saddle this big debt, 'n' be throwed over by his
girl. Ruby don't know nothin' or she'd never be-
lieve he's a coward. Women is fools anyway —
most of 'em."
This possible exception was added after an in-
stant's thought, for Hiel desired above all things to
" I'd like to wallop that young Austin. No busi-
ness tu get in debt 'n' make Abram all this trouble.
I'm glad I got money tu lend. I don't care if I
could get ten per cent, in wool spec'lation. I guess
I've a right to help a feller thet's in trouble ! "
This last was spoken rather fiercely, as if some
imp of evil had suggested the loss of that fabulous
percentage ; and Hiel vigorously attacked the rasp-
berry shoots and Canada thistles which grew rankly
among the stones.
Hiel Saunders would have delighted the soul of
an artist in search of a traditional Yankee or of a
litterateur anxious to preserve a dialect indigenous
to and originating in New England soil, which
A PECULIAR ANGEL. 71
has had few interpreters, and is rapidly disap-
He was lean and wiry, his face wore a shrewd,
good-natured, interrogatory expression, his hair was
light-colored and " stubbly," his pantaloons and
coat-sleeves were invariably too short, and his
vocabulary was in a loose, chaotic state to which his
nasal twang was nicely adapted. In his every-day
garb he was comparatively at ease, and " conversa-
tion " was a delightful pastime. Indeed, Martha
Thompson said there was " no end to his gab."
But in his best clothes he was wretched ; and great
indeed must be the social obligations which should
force him into them. Under such circumstances
he became conversationally bankrupt, and speech
clung and tripped on familiar words like a plow in
a pasture where old snags and roots impede its
And yet Hiel, in spite of his peculiarities, was
very sensitive regarding literary and pictorial repre-
sentations of the Yankees, and had he been told
that he resembled one of those creations of fancy
he would have felt afflicted.
" Neow tu think," said he to Martha Thompson,
as he leaned over a copy of Harper s Weekly, which
had upon its last page an artistic " Uncle Sam,"
" that picture-man tries to make folks b'lieve
Northerners look like that scalawag. It makes
me hoppin' mad, an' I'd like tu tell him he's a
Martha eyed Hiel a moment, and said in her
"You better do it, Hiel; I think he'd be amused."
72 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
But while there was a resemblance that even
Martha noticed, one's ideas of a Yankee character
ought not to be derived wholly from such pictures,
nor from the eccentric dialect as given by ordinary
authors. Under all the contractions and elisions
and strange constructions there is often a surprising
amount of general intelligence ; and when words
are spoken with earnestness one learns to look at
their tattered condition with a certain charity.
So our friend Hiel, who stands out against the
horizon of the past, already referred to as particu-
larly " odd," was, nevertheless, much respected in
Gilead, which had its complement of other oddities
and quite as much localism as was good for it.
When Hiel strode over to the bank at the ap-
pointed time, clad in his blue " frock " and sheep's-
gray pantaloons, which did not by any means trail
in the dust, and called for a thousand dollars of his
invested funds, the cashier, Mr. Akers, was very
deferential, and, as he knew Hiel was about to in-
vest in wool, he made no remarks, only to wish him
" many returns of the same ; " and Hiel winked at
Abram as though it were a good joke.
" I pulled the wool over his eyes," said he, as
soon as they were fairly outside.
Abram took his letter, written as if he were
Austin's father, with the check inclosed, to the
Center, that it might not pass under the close
scrutiny of the village postmaster. Just before
leaving Hiel he said to him :
" If you ever need a friend I'm yours, soul and
body, because of what you have done for me to-
A PECULIAR ANGEL. 73
And Hiel went back to his work snapping his
fingers and smiling like a millionaire who has just
endowed a college. No, not like ; for the million-
aire knows that his beneficence will be heralded far
and wide, while Hiel was only half conscious that
he had slain the love of gain, mowed it down, so to
speak, and wholly conscious that he had served a
" Jewhitiker!" said he, as he spat upon his hands
and seized his scythe, 4< didn't I pull the wool over
the cashier's eyes ? "
THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
MARTHA THOMPSON hired a " sitting" in
Miss Hancock's pew, and on the Sabbath
following the events just narrated she sat as usual
in her accustomed place, very erect and very quiet,
evidently listening attentively to the sermon. But
Miss Hancock was aware, through some marvelous
intuition which almost constituted her a " mind-
reader," that Martha was troubled about something,
and was not following the minister's eloquent de-
scription of Belshazzar's feast.
And she fully sympathized with Martha's way-
ward thoughts, although her lack of devout attention
was caused by the minister himself. Miss Hancock
was one of those unreasonable women who have
existed in all ages, who sometimes forget the lim-
itations of sex and long to do what evidently ought
to be done by somebody. So this bright Sabbath
morning she was wishing she could remand J. Har-
mon Phelps and Belshazzar to some other clime,
and stand there herself and talk to the dear boys
who were so soon to leave their home and church
influences perhaps forever. There was so much
practical wisdom in God's great store-house, so
much sweetness and consolation, so many strong,
encouraging words just adapted to present circum-
SUNDA Y NOON. 75
stances, that it seemed a pity to waste time over the
decorations of a heathen palace. Miss Hancock
found herself in the midst of a fervent imaginary
discourse which brought a bright color to her cheeks
and tears to her eyes when the closing " amen "
sounded from the pulpit ; and she came to herself
with a start, thankful that her neighbors had no
suspicion that she had been so moved and edified
by her own " prophesyings." Under these circum-
stances she was not surprised when Martha whis-
pered to her, behind her palm-leaf fan, that if it
was agreeable she would walk home with her after
Sabbath-school. So, after Miss Hancock had taught
her class of young men, throwing into the lesson
all the pent-up enthusiasm of the morning, and
Martha had faithfully followed the lesson as taught
by the minister in the Bible-class, the two women
walked sedately down the street to the little white
house next door to the parsonage. Martha Thomp-
son was one of those rare New England "girls"
who " lived out," laid up money, accumulated wis-^
dom, cherished her independence, and enjoyed the
respect and friendship of those who knew her best.
That this number of friends was not larger was due to
the fact that Martha measured people with a jealous
eye. That church member who looked down upon
her because she did the work in Esquire Fletcher's
kitchen found her as rigid as a marble statue when,
on some social occasion, it became convenient to
approach her in a familiar way. Not that Martha
was tart or saucy — she was simply unapproachable.
But those who recognized her worth when she
was flying around in her scant, plain, every-day
76 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" gownds," as she called her work-dresses, found her
gracious and ready to assist any good cause. This
angularity of disposition gave Martha a certain ad-
vantage, intrenching her, so to speak, in her own
garrison, which she took care to keep well provis-
ioned. Mrs. Fletcher understood her handmaiden
so well that there was seldom any friction between
them. Ruby, too, had learned her " limitations,"
and found it wise to consult Martha before interfer-
ing in any way with the domestic system which
revolved around her. Hiel Saunders was less sub-
missive, but even he had learned new lessons in
caution whenever he had failed to fill the wood-box
or ventured upon her clean kitchen floor with
muddy boots. Hiel was one of her crosses, but
he consoled her by declaring that without him she
would forget how to exercise moral suasion. Her
very attitude, as she stood upon the door-steps and
pointed out a loosened clapboard on Miss Han-
cock's little cottage, proclaimed her practical turn
" You better have that nailed right on," said she,
tapping it with her parasol. " I would, fer one of
these nights there'll come a high wind and that'll go
1 flap, flap, flap,' and you can't sleep a wink."
" I hadn't noticed it. Yes, I must have it fixed,"
assented Miss Hancock, as she ushered Martha into
her cozy sitting-room. " Now, take off your bonnet
and rest your head," said she, adding, as she re-
ceived it, " Your straw whitened beautifully, Mar-
tha. It looks like a new bonnet ; and as for your
shawl, I must say it's a beauty."
The owner of the new " cashmere " looked well
SUNDA Y NOON. 77
pleased, and remarked, as she carefully folded it in
its original creases :
"Yes, I think so. I did think of gettin' a stella
shawl. They're thinner and more suited to warm
weather ; but squire's wife said it wouldn't always be
good like a cashmere. I have to work too hard for
my money to throw it away when I do get it, and
they say some of the Stellas fade in the sun."
"They do," assented Miss Hancock. "My
cousin in Boston bought a nice green stella last
summer, and it faded so she had it colored black and
gave it to her mother; but when people can't afford
to give away things they don't like, why, they must
buy the best in the first place."
By this time Martha had spread her handkerchief
over her lap and produced a little package of cara-
way cookies and cheese, her usual Sunday lunch,
and a little later Miss Hancock seated herself in a
neighboring rocking-chair with a small bowl of
cracker and milk. Then, as she expected, Martha
revealed her errand.
" You know, I s'pose, that our Ruby's turned
Abram Steele off because he didn't 'list."
" I heard so, but you can't believe rumors always,
and I hadn't thought of it again," said Miss Han-
" Well, it's true, and Ruby's such a little goose
she wont budge an inch. She's clear Fletcher —
just as set in her way as her father is ; but notwith-
standing she can't deceive me. She don't have no
appetite, and she keeps sitliing every five minutes."
Here Martha's feelings threatened to interfere
with her speech, and she paused to shake her head —
78 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
a little gesture with which she always reproved any
"softness," and then resumed.
" I think a good deal of Abram, 'nd he's no
coward, I tell you. Hiel says he's all right, 'nd
while Hiel aint so bright as some he's ready to stake
his life on that. Ruby's pretty high-strung, 'nd of
course she thought strange that Abram should back
out after they was engaged, when he was so eager
to go. But I says to her, ' Now, Ruby, give him a
chance to explain. You may be sure he's got a good
reason.' But no ; she just stamped her foot down
and threw up her head, and off she went. So that's
the way we're livin' to the squire's, 'nd I do wish
you'd come in and see if you can't help straighten
things out. They all think a sight of your judg-
Miss Hancock had listened very attentively while
Martha was speaking, just as she always listened
when people told her their troubles ; and after a
moment's silence she said :
" I'm sorry for Ruby. I'm sorry for Abram too ;
but, Martha, what could have changed his mind so
suddenly? If it had been any other — why, Martha,
I have had Abram Steele in my class ever since he
was a little boy, and I never knew him to do a wrong
act. Not one ! and it wasn't because he didn't
know how to, but he always seemed to choose to do
right ; and I have felt so tried with him since this
— well, fickleness, I have called it — that I was al-
most glad to hear the gossip about Ruby's rejecting
him. But I can't bring myself to blame him as the
men do, and I think there must be some reason
back of it all if we could know the truth. Mean-
SUNDA Y NOON. 79
while I'll drop in some day soon and see if I can
help any. Ruby's never had much discipline, and
she needs it — we all need it ; " and Miss Hancock
rocked gently back and forth, evidently recalling
her own pupilage under that impartial Master who
gives what we need, not always what we want.
" I s'pose we do," said Martha, grimly, " 'nd I
b'lieve in taking what's sent: but lots of our troub-
le's home-made, after all."
" That is true," said Miss Hancock, cheerily,
" and I guess I've manufactured a little in this case.
But you see I love Abram so well that I can't bear
to have him even suspected of any thing that isn't
just right, and the rest of the boys are feeling bitter
toward him and coming to me to talk about it, and
yet he doesn't say one word. I confess I have felt
hurt; but probably he will explain it all very soon.
You see, Martha, just how selfish I am. But there's
another reason. I'm getting so wrought up over
this war that I can't understand how any man can
stay at home. My heart is so full of it that some
nights it seems as if it would surely break when I
think of the awful sin that brought it on and the
woe that comes with it. I didn't feel so at first, but
it has grown upon me till some nights I can't sleep
for thinking of battle-fields and wounded soldiers
and hospitals, with scores and hundreds of sick ones
lying there with none of their friends to take care of
them. And then I think of the widows and orphans
until I groan in spirit and beg the Lord to let me
do something to hasten the end."
Martha listened with a sort of awe, her eyes fixed
upon Miss Hancock's slender fingers, which were
80 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
twisted tightly together as if to help repress the
emotion that her words but feebly embodied.
"Well, now," said she, perfectly aware that she
had no language to express what she really wished
she could, " I didn't s'pose you ever got low-spirited
like that over any thing. You never seem given up
to doubts and glooms like most folks."
The spell was broken, and Miss Hancock's hands
folded themselves softly together.
" Never in the day-time when I'm needed, and
never about my own affairs. I just count myself
among God's little sparrows, and take it for granted
that I'll always have my twig to hold on to. But
this is different. It isn't my affairs at all, but it is
" I guess likely you'll yet go for a nurse," said
Martha, half questioningly.
" Possibly, but I've no special leading so far.
There'll be work enough to do every-where, I guess,
before we see the last of it, and I hope I shall be
ready to do my part. It's time for me to think of
that, too ; for I was terribly troubled all sermon-
time because our minister wasn't doing his part
according to my ideas. I can say to you, Martha,
that I do wish he would come down from his lad-
der and talk sense to the boys."
" Come down from his ladder?" repeated Martha,
who was never figurative.
"Yes, ladder, or stilts, or whatever it is that lifts
him so far above common folks." Miss Hancock's
eyes twinkled, and she added, with bated breath,
" I can't think of any thing but a man in corsets
when I hear him preach."
SUNDA Y NOON. 81
" 0-o-oh ! " cried Martha, throwing up her hands.
" Nobody but a born fool would wear one of them
abominable things, man or woman."
" Not actual corsets, of course," laughed Miss
Hancock, "but spiritual ones, binding and cramp-
ing his very soul. I felt this morning how I'd like
to snap the whalebones and cut the strings just
This bold figure of speech traveled through
Martha's brain, and was recognized as embodying a
vague idea that she had had ; and an appreciative
smile expanded her lips and gathered in wrinkles all
around her eyes, by which time Miss Hancock had
repented her rashness and added in contrite tones,
" But I ought not to indulge in such unprofitable
talk. The Lord can loose the bonds of his serv-
ant in his own good time ; and there's the first bell
ringing this minute."
But a Sunday "noonin' " may hold many events
of interest besides the conversation of two simple-
hearted women ; and the little groups gathered in
and around the church made up of those who
remained between Sunday-school and " afternoon
preaching" were all making the most of the hour.
One topic, with many variations, absorbed all classes
in those days, and the air was filled with murmur-
ous bits of conversation relating to those who had
gone or were going to war, or, sometimes sadder
still, those who would remain at home.
Esther Steele happened to be the sole occupant
of the gallery, and she sat at the melodeon playing
with timid, quiet touch tunes with which she was
familiar. She was not a daring musician, like Abram,
82 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
who, though self-taught, could fill the old church
with all the music the instrument was capable of,
and could improvise voluntaries that were the
pride of the congregation. The instrument had
been bought for a " seraphine," and the choir had
taken pride in the name, until poor old Grandma'am
Pike spoiled it by saying that " Abram Steele could
make music on their new ' seraphim ' that was most
The young people of the other church did not
fail to take advantage of the old lady's blunder, and
as a result it had been nothing but a melodeon ever
since. But it was much larger than that in Mr.
Steele's parlor, and so was a delight to Esther's
music-loving soul. She was playing a quaint old
"fugue" tune, which was a fitting accompaniment
to her own thoughts, when she became aware that
she was not alone, and, looking around, saw Donald
Stanley. Her heart immediately began to beat a
wild tattoo, for she instinctively felt that he had
planned to see her alone. Ought she to go or to
stay? While her tender conscience was debating
this question, with the weight of argument in favor
of instant flight, he seated himself near her, and
she persuaded herself that she could not pass him
without actual rudeness. There was no more prac-
ticing of old tunes; and if two or three old ladies
who had gathered in the minister's pew, because
it boasted the luxury of a cushion, missed the
music and glanced up questioningly, let us trust
that some pure and sweet memory of their own
youth returned to remind them that there was
other music quite as entrancing as that of a melo-
SUNDA V NOON. S3
deon. If at this point sentimental readers antici-
pate a touching love episode they are doomed to
disappointment. Indeed, such scenes as are de-
scribed by those who make it a business would be
altogether too intense to suit the quiet of a coun-
try church. Our friend Esther was an honest
little Puritan, and, greatly as she admired Don
Stanley, she had no idea of revealing the fact. So
she sat primly erect, and felt quite enraged because
the blood crept into her cheeks and her heart
kept up such a ridiculous thumping. But they
began to talk about the new company, touching
very lightly on Abram's inexplicable conduct, for
that subject was painful to both. Then Don spoke
tenderly of his mother and begged Esther to see
her as often as possible, for his mother loved her
And Esther laughed nervously at this and said
she didn't see why — she had never done any thing
for Mrs. Stanley. Then the young man asked
another favor for himself, which was that she would
write to him while he was away.
He had his penknife, and, as he talked, was cutting
his initials in fine shapely letters on the back of the
time-worn seat, where were the names of many other
singers who had sometime made melody in the
old gallery. Esther heard the request perfectly,
and held her under-lip with her white front teeth
for an instant, and so hard that the impression was
there a moment afterward ; but she did not reply.
Instead, she said that she hoped army life would
agree with him, and that he wouldn't get wounded.
He repeated his question — would she write to him ?
84 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
"O, I can't write good letters. You would get
more news from the Standard. I'll send you that,"
said she, gazing steadfastly at the initials and feel-
ing as though she had shut the gates of bliss against
He looked at her an instant and half smiled to see
her poorly assumed indifference. " I expect to
have the paper anyway. King wants me to cor-
respond. But I want you to write to me. May be
you think that is a favor I shall ask of other young
ladies, but it is not. I shall prize your letters —
more than I can tell ; and when I come home —
sometime — "
" When you come home you'll give them all
back, wont you ? " interrupted Esther, while the
gates of bliss swung wide open.
"Then you will write? " and the persistent fel-
low laughed at her confusion. And then quite un-
expectedly their eyes met, and at the same instant
the " first bell " began to ring.
By the time the other singers had ascended the
narrow stairs Don and Esther were in their re-
spective places diligently studying their hymn-
books. The bell rang, and after a brief silence rang
again a few sharp admonitory strokes, the last of
which resounded and echoed and kept the rope
swinging until Job Renfrew, the sexton, had hob-
bled half-way to his seat. The hot afternoon sun
struck through the unshaded west windows, and the
singers settled themselves, after the opening exer-
cises, as far as possible from its direct rays ; and
this gave Esther an opportunity to secure for her-
self a corner where she could hide her face. She
SUN DA Y NOON. S5
was so intensely self-conscious that it seemed as
though every body was looking at her blushing
cheeks and reading the very thoughts which whirled
through her brain. She had to assure herself
over and over again that " he " had not said any
thing, and that she had been equally prudent, before
she ventured to raise her eyes. It was very singu-
lar that the utterance of mere commonplaces such
as Esther persuaded herself had been the sum and
substance of their conversation should have had
such an effect. But if one finds the road which
leads back to paradise it matters little how the
gate is opened. It was enough for her to know,
with or without the agency of speech, that Don
Stanley valued her friendship and looked forward to
a "sometime." Of course with all this new hap-
piness came the thought of his speedy departure.
The " rough beard of war " was arousing many a
slumbering princess ; but with the waking came not
only the thrill of new life, but the bitterness of sep-
aration and the shadow of bereavement. And yet
there would be letters, and, by and by, a glad home-
coming. But how would her mother relish such a
Esther's conscientious heart quailed before this
thought, for Mrs. Steele did not like Don. His
very name was an offense to her conservative ears,
having a savor of romance.
" It sounds to me like a borrowed name," said she,
" and you may depend upon it there's something
Then again, his free and easy elegance, so differ-
ent from the good wholesome awkwardness and
86 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
diffidence of most country-bred young men, aroused
her suspicion that he had lived in " the city." And
were not cities noted for all sorts of deception and
duplicity? So, in spite of Abram's warm defense
of his friend and the young man's uniformly good be-
havior, she nursed her prejudice and would not,
Esther was sure, lay it aside to favor such a wild
proposition as that of correspondence.
But it would all come right, of course it would,
said Esther to herself; for in this new paradise road
nothing stumbles and falls so readily as doubts and
fears. So, during the rest of the service, she gave
herself up to innocent imaginings and plans for the
future ; and when the benediction was pronounced
she bowed her head with the happy consciousness
that she was indeed receiving the threefold blessing
invoked, and that for ever and ever her heart would
be kept " in perfect peace."
" COMPANY F." 87
" COMPANY F."
JULY days, sunny and sultry, passed rapidly, and
the last loads of hay had been drawn from shaven
fields. Barn doors stood wide open, and the sum-
mer winds blew through between mows piled high
on either side, still fragrant with the sweetest odors
of earth and air ; and harvesting crowded close
upon haying, or perhaps haying had dragged a little.
What else could be expected, when every night
men and boys alike hurried to the village post-
office for " the news," and stopped to discuss it with
neighbors and friends? And there was so much
news to discuss. Surely the old controversy con-
cerning the relative might of the sword and the
pen was never so far from settlement as in those
days when the one was constantly engaged in re-
cording the deeds of the other. Never before had
newspapers been in such demand, never had edito-
rial courage and wisdom been so tested, never in the
history of our land had thought responded to thought
and impulse to impulse so quickly and with such tell-
Gilead's local paper, the Standard, whose motto
was, "No compromise with slavery," and whose
editor was a young man full of combativeness and
moral courage, was issued every Friday.
88 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
While the sheets were still damp from the press
they were carried away by eager subscribers, who,
after hearing a " Boston daily' ' read aloud in the post-
office, Avere ready to study the events of the week in
the light of Standard reports from the front.
When at length the last recruit necessary to form
the new company had given his name and received
a glance of medical approval through old Dr. Snow's
spectacles, an organization was effected ; and while
the presses waited the Standard slipped in a com-
plete list of men and officers. It was more popular
that night than ever before.
Benjie Steele was one of the first to snatch a copy,
and away he rode toward home with his prize, en-
tirely forgetting the nails and screws he was to
purchase. He was at that age when a very little ex-
citement is sufficient to set the blood racing through
the body, and when there is no motive power quite
rapid enough to keep pace with the imagination. Talk
of telegraphic communication ! A boy of fifteen
brooks no delay ; not that his business is all-im-
portant, he simply wants things to move.
That was Benjie's nature; and yet in hoeing-
time he could, if he chose, rival a snail in his rate
of progress from one potato-hill to another. Of
such strange inconsistencies are boys capable.
But he rode home through the darkness and the
dust that August evening at Gypsy's best speed ;
and, after turning her loose in the little pasture be-
hind the barns, hurried into the sitting-room where
the family were gathered.
" I got the Standard and the list's in it — company
all organized and every thing," he panted.
"COMPANY F." 89
His father laid aside the Tribune with a " Well,
well, I want to know !" His mother looked up from
her mending, the girls each held out a hand for the
paper, and Abram, who sat at his desk in the cor-
ner, paused in his writing and leaned his head upon
Benjie began with the editorial : " Company F,
popularly known as the Gilead Guards, is now full,
and to-day elected officers, whose names, as also
those of the privates, will be found in another
" Among the new recruits are many of our best
young men ; and, while they will be sadly missed,
every patriotic citizen must rejoice that our town is
to be so well represented in the ranks of our nation's
defenders. Bristow's Falls and the Center have
helped make up the — "
" O, Benjie," interrupted Mary, "who cares for
editorials? Do read the list."
Benjie looked at her with lofty scorn.
" I care for editorials. How would we know how
things are goin' if 'twasn't for them ?" said he, mean-
while turning the paper to the indicated column.
" Well, John Bartlett is captain, just as we ex-
pected, 'nd Judson Plumley's first lieutenant. Wal-
ter Jackson, from the Center, is second lieutenant — "
"Don Stanley's one of the sergeants, anyway,"
said Mary, peeping over Benjie's shoulder.
"Yes, and Joe Armstrong 'nd Hiram Follinsbee
are corporals. Now, I'm disappointed not to see
David Douglas amongst the officers. He's a real
smart feller ; he knows lots more 'n most of the boys,
90 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" It aint the wisest and best that get office, not
always. I dare say David will make a good private
soldier," said Mr. Steele.
"Yes; he'll be good anywhere; but if they'd
asked my advice I'd have said, ' Have David for cor-
poral, for all of Hi Follinsbee.' "
There was a laugh at this, for Benjie distinguished
himself daily by planning campaigns and directing
"Well, you needn't laugh," said he; "don't I
know the boys a good deal better than most of the
company? But they all feel so good I suppose
they don't care much for office. John Henry
Hickey said every Gilead boy would be an H. P.,
best they could do."
" What's an H. P.?" asked Mary.
" High Private, of course. I told John Henry he
walked 's if he'd swallowed a ramrod ; but he said I
ought to see him when he gets out of sight, 'nd I
" The Hickey boys are straightening up wonder-
fully," said Mary, as she carefully drew the paper
from the table. " See here," she continued, " Vic's
brother, Chester Shaw, is going. He was in the
Standard office, you know. And hear this : ' The
family of Mr. Joel Smith is truly patriotic, sending the
father and three sons.' The family send them !
that must mean poor Mrs. Smith, and Abby Jane,
and Huldah, and two or three babies."
" They'll be left without a man to drive a nail,"
observed Benjie as he recaptured the paper.
"I guess girls can learn to drive nails," cried
"■COMPANY F." 91
"Yes, finger-nails," retorted Benjie.
" Three boys ! How can poor Mrs. Smith bear it ?"
said Mrs. Steele, sympathetically. " But Pliny is not
of age, I am very sure. No ; he was born the win-
ter their house burnt, and that makes him a whole
year younger than Austin. Strange they allow him
" I guess they take him along to keep him out of
mischief; I wish somebody was obliged to take me,"
"They wouldn't find time to do any fighting if
they did," said Mary, between whom and her
brother existed an affection subject to frequent
" Children, children, be careful what you say ! "
interposed their father. " It's no joke to 'list, for it
means never seein' home again to a good many.
Read the names of the boys, son."
And with many an exclamation and interpolation
the boy read the long list, while Esther's knitting-
needles clicked, and the rest sat thoughtfully listen-
ing and wondering what would be the future fate of
the " Guards."
Esther kept her fingers and needles flying, for,
like all self-conscious people, she felt sure that the
slightest change in her acts or words would be
noticed ; and not for all the world would she have
betrayed the fact that her heart was interested in
one more than another of the names in that long
Printer's ink stamps any subject with a distinct-
ness that means finality ; so, while every body in
town seemed to know who had enlisted, the fact
92 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
was not fully realized until they saw it thus announced
in black and white.
" It reads too much like the killed and wounded
list in the Boston Journal" said Mary.
"And there's where you'll see some of 'em next,
probably," added her mother, sadly.
" Here's a long letter from the cavalry — from Cap-
tain Plumley," said Benjie, rapidly scanning the
paper ; " 'nd here's a little squib from somebody about
the new company. Want to hear it? " and without
waiting for a response the boy began to read one
of those local letters such as add to the popularity
of a paper in its own town. It was well written,
giving advice to the new " soldier-boys " as well as
considerable information concerning their immediate
future ; and Benjie plunged along in his usual haste
until he found himself reading the closing sentences :
" Nothing but admiration is expressed for the brave
men who form this new company. Its officers are,
without exception, making a genuine sacrifice,
whether we consider present position or future
prospects, and are evidently actuated by pure pa-
triotism ; while the privates are, as a whole, far above
the average in appearance and character. Gilead
may trust her ' war record ' in the hands of such
men. As for those who exhibited a flaming zeal
before the recruiting office was opened, and after-
ward cooled off so suddenly, we have no words
to express our contempt. If such were in the
majority, ' secesh ' principles would soon rule the
nation, law and order would be sacrificed, anarchy
would — "
Mary's foot was applied with such emphasis at
"COMPANY F." 93
this moment as to awaken Benjie to the fact that
the article was dealing with a dangerous topic.
He saw it at once, and marveled at his stupidity,
while his face and neck reddened all over. He
glanced quickly toward Abram, who still sat with
his face bent over his desk and gave no visible sign
of emotion. There followed a painful silence which
no one cared to break. Benjie hid his glowing face
and finished the article, which closed with a sarcas-
tic reference which he felt must be aimed at Abram.
He was thoroughly stirred, and tears of vexation
filled his eyes and began to drop with a distinct
noise upon the paper. Angry that he could not
control himself, more than all angry that Abram
should bring such disgrace upon himself and the
family, he jumped up, seized a candle from the shelf,
and ejaculating, "It's too confounded mean, so!"
he disappeared up the stairs.
Mr. Steele did not reprove or call him back,
severe as he was against the use of "by-words."
He snuffed his candle deliberately and turned
again to his paper. Esther left her place by the
table and moved over by Abram's desk, wishing she
dared express the sympathy she felt ; while Mary,
who did not approve of silence, introduced what
she felt sure was a safe subject.
" Mother," said she, " I wonder why Austin
doesn't write. It's been weeks since we heard last.
I think he is awful careless."
" It never was easy for Austin to write," answered
her mother. " He used to fret over his writing-
books more than all the rest of you put together.
But he promised to write every fortnight."
94 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" I dreamed last night that I saw him in a brass
band," laughed Mary. " He had a horn that shone
like the sun, and it was just the shape of the ram's
horns that they blew when they went round Jericho,
you know, and he was riding on a black horse."
" Father read about Jericho yesterday morning;
that's why you dreamed of horns," said Esther.
" I'm glad it was a black horse instead of a white
one," said Mrs. Steele, slowly. " I don't really be-
lieve in signs, but I've noticed if you dream of a
white horse you're almost sure to hear of sickness
or death or some other trouble."
Mary leaned her head upon the table close to her
mother and whispered, " I don't think we need
to dream about white horses, for we've got trouble
enough now. I think Abram's real hateful, and if
I was you and father I'd make him tell what's
keeping him home."
Mrs. Steele shook her head to enforce silence,
and glanced with troubled eyes toward the corner.
" I s'pose he wrote to Austin not to come home
now he isn't needed," continued Mary, still in a
whisper. " I guess Austin wonders what the trouble
is, don't you ? "
A warning cough from Esther checked the talka-
tive girl at last, who tossed her head defiantly and
picked up the Standard which had been thrown
upon the floor in Benjie's wrath.
If the family had been better acquainted with the
tactics of writers just at that time they would have
known that it was their policy to bring the army of
stay-at-homes into disrepute. They would have
known that there were many genuine cowards who
"COMPANY F." 95
might have considered that caustic letter a personal
reproof, well deserved on account of their high pro-
fessions of patriotism previous to the test of enlist-
ment. In those days many a man remembered with
delight that he had a " tendency " to consumption,
or that he had a " bad knee,"or defective teeth ; and
the number of " stiff joints " discovered was a libel
on nature's system of lubrication. But under the
circumstances they thought of no one but Abram
that evening, and suffered accordingly.
As for Abram, he was not yet so hardened as to
be indifferent to public opinion. To be sure he
had tried to fortify himself against it, but every
day brought some new trial which he felt, as Gypsy
felt through every nerve of her sensitive body the
sting of a whip. But public opinion in general
was nothing to him compared with that of his inti-
mate friends ; for Abram, like all royal souls, placed
a high estimate on those whose friendship he valued.
And they had been to him — Judson Plumley and
young Lawyer Parker and Don Stanley and all the
rest — been to him and pleaded and coaxed until they
were weary ; and then — for human nature is weak —
had turned away either in anger or in silence, which
expressed more than words. A few, and but a few,
had remained quite the same. One of these was
Don Stanley, who knew enough of the world to
dimly suspect where the trouble lay ; and another
was Joe Armstrong, who declared that he had
" pulled with Abram Steele too long to leave him
alone when he got stuck in a hard furrow." Others
tried to resume the old friendly relations, but there
is nothing so hard to counterfeit as the ring of sin-
96 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
cerity in a familiar voice ; and Abram, with his clear
insight, could not be deceived. He was, however,
philosopher enough to say that he would do no
better himself under similar circumstances.
Next to the trial of losing the esteem of old
friends was that of receiving the congratulations of
new ones, who most unexpectedly came to the
Old Mr. Slocum still owned the farm adjoining
Mr. Steele's, and had so conducted himself since
the commencement of the civil war as to win the
epithet "copperhead,' which was applied some-
what indiscriminately to rebel sympathizers in the
North. Mr. Slocum was a hard-fisted old fellow
who loved money so well that his capacity in the
line of affection was exhausted. He regarded his
country as deliberately wronging him in supporting
the luxury of a war ; and as his sons and his son-in-
law, who lived near, all subscribed to his doctrines,
the family had become quite notorious in a commu-
nity so generally loyal. Abram was at work one
day near the " line-fence," when Mr. Slocum, who
was busily mending the same, called to him, greet-
ing him with a cordiality that was quite surprising.
" Glad to know you've got a leetle grain of com-
mon sense," said he. " Every body's so eat up
with this rage to go South ; I declare it beats all!
And they're bound to get the upper hand of us,
them Southerners ; don't ye see they be ? Who
wins the big battles? Why, the rebs do. They're
on their own ter'tory; don't you see they be?
They'll hold on to their niggers, too. So'd I if I
was in their places, fer it Stan's to reason a man
"COMPANY F." 97
wont give up his property. Who's goin' to carry
on them rice plantations and pick all that 'ere
cotton, if the niggers all go to Afriky ? White folks
can't do it — can't stand the hot weather. Don't
ye see they can't?"
Abram always had to smile at Mr. Slocum, he
was so hopelessly ignorant and bigoted, so he an-
" The negroes wont go to Africa if they are freed.
They will probably stay in the South and pick the
cotton just as they do now, only they will be paid
for their work like other men. They wont be
slaves, and they ought not to be slaves."
" I do' know about that;" and Mr. Slocum brought
his hammer down upon the top fence-rail with em-
phasis. " Folks don't all read the Bible alike, and
folks don't always think alike. If they're set free
they'll roam everywhere, all over creation. They'll
be up here, and the town'll have 'em to take care
of. Yis, sir; they'll be beggars and thieves, eatin' us
out of house and home. And think of the taxes !
Land o' Goshen — think of the taxes ! They're goin'
to take more 'n a man's got. Don't ye see they
The old man's eyes snapped, and his voice, al-
ways high and shrill, sounded so like a cracked
violin that Abram laughed again, even while he felt
that, in a sense, he was " aiding and abetting " the
" Wal," he continued, wiping the sweat from his
forehead and lowering his voice, " I was about to
say I'm glad to see you know enough to stay to
home ; I says to my folks, says I, ' Abram Steele's
98 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
got more sense 'n I thought he had. He knows
which side his bread is buttered,' says I."
" But, Mr. Slocum, I didn't want to stay at home.
I should have enlisted when the rest did if my way
hadn't been blocked," interrupted Abram, with
" O, y-a-a-s ! " drawled the old farmer, his eyes
twinkling facetiously, " that's what I told my folks.
Says I, ' Abram knows which side his bread's but-
tered.' Them that goes to war is twice as likely to
get shot as them that stays to home. Don't ye see
they be ? "
Abram dared not trust himself to reply, but his
face grew white as he said " Good-morning " and
returned to his work.
Mr. Slocum had a dim idea that he might have
misunderstood the young man ; but, after watching
him a moment, he took up his hammer, muttering
as he did so that " the Steeles was a dretful thin-
AND next in order came the new blue clothes
for the " Guards." The earlier volunteers
had not been thus equipped before leaving home,
and the brief visits of a few "on furlough" had
given to people in general but a glimpse of " blue
and gold." Even the pompous officers who had
visited the place since recruiting began tarried but
for a night, leaving behind a vague impression of
military splendor and a question as to what it must
be to see a regiment thus arrayed. But now Gilead
had a whole company of its own in uniform ! Has
any one whose memory dates back to '62 forgotten
how the boys looked in their dark blue coats, light
blue pantaloons, and regulation caps ? How straight
and tall they looked ! And as for their style of
walking, they seemed to drop the old slouching
stride, and step as if they had already been under
the charge of a drill-master. The villagers had the
first view of the company when, after receiving their
outfit at their rendezvous, they appeared singly or
in squads to " pass inspection." Proud and anxious
to be seen they were, but modest withal, and quite
overwhelmed by the hand-shakings and compliments
which greeted them on every side.
" Uncle Sam's boys forever! " shouted Ira Bar-
100 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
stow from the post-office window ; and then the men
and boys standing around began to cheer, and the
children just released from school hurrahed and
waved handkerchiefs, until our young soldiers felt
inclined to beat a retreat.
" Well, David," cried Mrs. Douglas, as her son
appeared, having hurried home to exhibit himself
to parental eyes, " well, David, you do look fine,
indeed ; but I can't bear to think that my little Da-
vid is really going to meet the great Goliath of
slavery ! "
" O, mother," laughed the young man, "don't
call me your little David. I took one of the largest
suits they had ; " and he drew himself up compla-
cently, trying to survey his " five feet ten " in the
tiny looking-glass that hung in the corner.
" But it seems such a few days since you was a
baby in the cradle. O, David, you're too good for
a soldier ! " and for a moment it seemed as if
Mrs. Douglas was about to follow the example of
weaker women. " But I said I wouldn't cry, Da-
vid, and I'll not begin now, for I love this dear
country as well as though I'd been born here;
and I wont say, like some of the mothers, that I
wish I had no son to go, for I'm glad I have you
and that you're brave enough to go ; " and she
wiped the tears from her eyes, still sunny and clear,
and David resolved, then and there, that his mother
should never have cause to regret her sacrifice.
But all the women were not as courageous as this
clever Scotchwoman. Vic Armstrong, who had
cried and scolded alternately while preparing neces-
sary clothing for Joe, broke down completely when
BLUE SUITS. 101
she saw him coming through the trees that night
and caught the sparkle of tell-tale brass buttons as
the rays of the setting sun fell upon them. Little
Nellie clapped her hands and laughed, reaching out
eagerly for the new splendor ; but Vic threw herself
into the big arm-chair and sobbed :
" O, Joe, now you're going, now you're going!
You don't love me and baby any more ! All you
care for now is the new clothes and going to war."
Joe caught her in his arms and smoothed her
" O, now, Vic," said he, soothingly, " you mustn't
talk so. You wouldn't want me to stay here 'nd
feel too mean to live, while the rest of the boys
went to war, would ye? Frank will come to stay
with ye, 'nd I'll send home my money to pay up for
the farm, 'nd when I come home I'll build a new
house with a piazza all round. It wont seem no
time hardly before we finish up that little job down
South; and you'll write all about how things 're
goin' here to home, 'nd I'll write every week, sure."
" No ; you'll get shot. I know you will ! " wailed
Vic ; " and I'll be left a widow woman like Grand-
This pleased Joe immensely, and he laughed so
heartily that baby Nell's lips began to curl with
" When you look like Grandma'am Pike," said
he, nestling the baby closer, " Nellie will be about
fifty years old. Don't ye worry about me, Vic, fer
your old Joe's sure to come home."
" If you could only wear a hemlet it would be
some comfort," said Vic, wiping her eyes.
102 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" Wear a what?" inquired puzzled Joe.
" A hemlet, such as the knights used to wear
when they rode away on their coal-black steeds."
" 0, that's some of your story-book nonsense, I
guess ; " and Joe looked slightly annoyed, for he
had no sympathy with his little wife's " helmeted
knights," " fierce brigands," and " moated castles."
" Well, they didn't go to war in them days in blue
clothes trimmed with brass buttons. You can't
even have a breastplate," said Vic, fretfully.
" Speakin' of breastplates makes me think what
Miss Hancock told us boys last Sunday. Kind of
an armor, you know — why, yes, Vic — and there's a
helmet, I remember now. Let's see. Breastplate
of righteousness, helmet of salvation, sword of the
" O, I know what you mean, Joe," interrupted
Vic ; " but that don't keep the bullets from killin'
Joe was silent a moment, his eyes fixed on the
floor. Then he kissed his wife softly and asked
her what he could find for supper, for this careless
housekeeper often made Joe take his meals in the
Perhaps none of the new recruits felt more de-
pressed by their uniforms than the Hickey boys.
Naturally angular and awkward, they made desper-
ate efforts to conform to the new order of things,
but they had always dressed in such a very free-
and-easy style that they rather resented " tight
clothes with linin's." They bore up bravely while
the cheering and congratulations lasted, and John
Henry was so elated for the moment that he vent-
BLUE SUITS. 103
ured to bow to Miss Emma Alice Green, the mer-
chant's daughter, a white-faced, listless young lady,
who always reminded him of an angel ! They also
maintained their dignity as they passed Squire
Fletcher's, and were rewarded by Ruby's cordial
bow and waving handkerchief.
" I'll bet she wishes we was Abram Steele," said
John Henry, soberly.
" I heard some women tellin' mother the other
day that Ruby tore round awful when any body
spoke about him. Wished she might die if she
ever had any thing to say to him, 'nd all such
stuff," added George, in a low tone.
" I don't b'lieve it. Too much soft wood fer a
good steady fire. Folks better let that fuss alone,
fer, as Hiel Saunders says, they'll find out some-
time," said John Henry, who was in his way quite
a social philosopher. But they had now gained the
shelter of their beloved woods, and dared to express
an opinion concerning their new habiliments.
"Awful warm, aint they?" said John Henry,
shrugging his shoulders.
" I can't breathe good in mine. I'm a good mind to
cut and run," said George, half joking, half in earnest.
"We don't want gover'ment down on us though.
Let's take off our coats 'nd go easy for a spell."
And so it came to pass as Mrs. Hickey stood in
the door-way with her hand above her eyes watch-
ing for the boys she saw them coming up the hill,
the new blue coats hanging over their arms as they
" loped " along, laughing and joking as usual. Her
great homely boys — how she loved them ! Good
and honest they were, and as shrewd and intelligent
104 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
fellows as you would find anywhere, only lacking
the refinements of polite society.
Glancing around from Mrs. Hickey's stand-point
at the front door, it was an easy matter to read the
secret of their liberty-loving tendencies. The farm
was on the " height of land " and the house occupied
a plateau at its summit. After reaching this, and
recovering their breath, no one wondered that they
enjoyed living there. Well-cultivated farms lay in
full view flanked by green side-hill pastures, such
as Vermonters, having known, never forget ; while,
farther on, magnificent forests swept away on either
hand, yielding a glimpse here and there of the val-
ley below. Against the northern horizon old
" Owl's Head " was visible, while away at the
south was a far-distant range of mountains which
looked, in their softened purplish outline, like a
vision of dreamland.
This was the view from the front of the house.
On the opposite side, and toward the west, was a
gradual slope, leading into a fine farming neighbor-
hood and finally to the village of Bristow's Falls.
A stranger, studying the economy of time and
strength, would naturally suppose that the Hickeys
would make that their village ; but no, their post-
office was Gilead ; and, with the obstinacy of dwell-
ers in hill countries, they really seemed to enjoy
climbing up from the valley, and felt duly afflicted
when drifted winter roads or an ailing horse pre-
vented attending the Gilead church on Sundays.
" It aint nothing to go up hill when you get used
to it," quoth Mr. Hickey.
It is a striking illustration of the wise provisions
BLUE SUITS. 105
of Providence that there are a good many people
who agree with our friend, else the hills of New
England never would have been settled !
The persistent energy which had won this hill farm
from the wilderness had brought it to a high degree
of perfection ; and it was, indeed, a picture, from
the front yard, with its flaunting hollyhocks and
dahlias, to the orchard, whose laden apple-trees
leaned over the wall ; and still beyond to the wide
corn-field, where, through a miniature forest of rus-
tling leaves, gleamed golden pumpkins.
Mrs. Hickey saw it all, glorified as it was by the
sunset, and her heart ached as she thought that her
boys must leave.
" Just as we've got ready to live, and every thing
so nice and pleasant, they want to go, both of
'em, both of 'em ! " said she to herself, choking back
the sobs that made her throat ache, and trying to
smile as they approached. Little Emmeline, a
sturdy five-year-old and the only daughter, thrust
her flaxen head into view, pushing her mother's
dress aside that she might greet her brothers.
" New clothes ! " said she, briefly.
" Yes, tow-head ! new clothes ; aint they pretty ? "
and they threw their coats over a splint-bottomed
chair outside the door, with a sigh of relief.
" Birds on the buttons ! " continued Emmeline,
examining them curiously.
"Yes, sir; that's the glorious American eagle! "
exclaimed her brother. " With torn pinions he
soars aloft, crying to every loyal citizen — "
" Give me liberty or give me death ! " interrupted
George, as John Henry's breath failed.
106 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" He didn't, either," said the little sister, reprov-
" Keep still, George Washington ; that wasn't
what I was going to say. He cries to every loyal
free-born American citizen — "
" Live or die, sink or swim, survive or perish, I'm for
the Constitution ! " shouted the father of his country,
who was immediately attacked by his brother.
Little Emmeline instantly retreated to a respect-
ful distance and stood with her hands meekly
folded over her blue and white check apron, watch-
ing the young gladiators, whose good-natured con-
tests were a source of continual delight and terror.
Mrs. Hickey was glad of their nonsense, for it gave
her time to control herself. She bent over the new
coats and tested the quality of cloth and " mak-
ing " with true housewifely instinct.
" They're very nice, and real well made," said she.
" You must put them on when father comes. Here,
sissy, go to the barn and call pa to supper ; it's all
ready and waitin'."
Mrs. Hickey was a remarkable housekeeper, and
the table around which the family gathered in the
large clean kitchen was covered with a tempting
array of her best cookery.
" Mother means we shall never forget her bis-
cuits," said John Henry, reaching for his third,
while George passed his plate for a second supply
of cold lamb.
" It does me good to see you eat," said their
mother ; " I've a notion the soldiers don't get much
variety in their victuals when they get down where
the fiuhtingf is."
BLUE SUITS. 107
The boys exchanged amused glances with their
father, and he remarked dryly:
" No, mother, I understand gover'ment don't deal
out fresh bread all round but once a day; dough-
nuts not so often."
" And frosted cake 'nd tarts only once a week,"
added John Henry, slyly.
"Poor fellows!" sighed Mrs. Hickey, while the
boys laughed uproariously over their joke.
" Mother '11 have to read up a little after you're
gone, I guess," said their father. " You must send
us some of the hard-tack we read about, so we can
see what Uncle Sam feeds his soldiers with."
"If they don't feed you well, boys, you just
come home. You know father and I believe in
livin' well," said their mother.
Again the boys went off in a gale of laughter, and
John Henry declared he should die if she said any
" Why, mother," said he, " don't you know we'd
be shot for deserters if we ran away from the
" O, I don't mean that I want you to run away,
exactly, but just tell the general that you can't stand
the livin'. That's perfectly reasonable, I'm sure."
This " amendment " was greeted with subdued
chuckles by the " men folks," and good Mrs. Hickey
rambled on, giving her ideas of what " gover'ment "
ought to do in the line of equipping and feeding its
soldiers. If she could have had her way there would
have been feather-beds all around, and plum pre-
serves and cake for regular rations. The time came,
however, when she knew all about what her boys
108 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
had to eat and how they slept ; but the lessons of
the rebellion could not be learned all at once by
busy women on Vermont hill-tops. Little by little,
through sacrifice, and loss, and bleeding hearts, they
learned how the mothers of a nation can suffer for
the nation's sin.
But this good supper and the quiet evening
which followed were almost the last the Hickey boys
enjoyed. In many other homes loving hands pre-
pared niceties never seen save at Thanksgiving or
some other festive occasion, that their loved ones
might remember home comforts with pleasure ; but
the time for their ministrations was short. Hardly
a week from the arrival of the uniforms orders came
that the company should report at the State ren-
dezvous the following Wednesday.
OAT TO DIXIE. 100
ON TO DIXIE.
A DRUM-BE AT, followed by the clear musical
notes of a bugle and supplemented by the
church-bell, was sufficient to arouse the people on
that eventful Wednesday morning. A very early
start was necessary, as Gilead was four miles from
the nearest railroad station, which must be reached
by eight o'clock ; hence, before the fog lifted from
the river, or released the village from its white
envelopments, the echo of quick footsteps was heard
upon the plank sidewalks. Familiar forms looked
weird and unnatural, seen dimly through the mists,
and the first wagon that rolled along the street
with its silent occupants seemed like some mysteri-
ous vehicle walking in its sleep. There was a very
perceptible chill in the damp air; and the new
recruits, as they greeted each other, shrugged their
shoulders and hoped it would be warmer " down in
Dixie." As daylight increased one could see that
quite a crowd had collected — men, women, and little
children — a quiet, sad-eyed crowd, among which the
boys in blue passed to and fro, trying to talk and
laugh, poor fellows ! — as though staid Gilead was
accustomed to convene every morning to see the
sun rise, and they were in no sense responsible for
this gathering. Flags were displayed at the court-
110 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
house, post-office, bank, and hotel, as well as from
the flagstaff on the common ; and a short distance
away were carriages, to convey the soldiers and their
baggage to the station. After a little delay the
" Gilead Brass Band," sadly depleted by the out-
going company, struck up " America," and the peo-
ple hastened to the brown church, where a tem-
porary platform had been erected.
Judge Plumley stepped forward, looked over the
assembled company, and in a voice he could with
difficulty control, said :
" There is no time for speech-making this morn-
ing, nor are we in a mood for speeches. We are
here as loyal citizens of Gilead, to say good-bye to
the citizen soldiers of our own and adjoining towns.
We differ from many lands in this, that our soldiers
are not such by profession, or for a long period of
time. You are still fathers, husbands, brothers, and
sons, going out from your homes to help save our
country from ruin in this her time of peril. We
believe you are truly patriotic, and that your enlist-
ment is from a sense of duty. We shall watch your
career with pride, shall rejoice in your success, and
pray most earnestly for your safe return. Remem-
ber, officers and private soldiers, that you leave be-
hind those who love and honor the principles for
which you are ready to die ; and that while we can-
not be with you we are still one in our devotion to
our country and our country's flag. In the name
of tliis and other towns which you represent, I
pledge you our hearty co-operation in the work
of putting down the rebellion. May your lives be
precious in the sight of the God of battles, and
ON TO DIXIE. Ill
his comforting presence go and remain with you
always ! "
Hearty cheering followed these earnest words,
growing even more enthusiastic as Captain Bartlett
stepped forward to reply.
The people looked at him through tears as he
stood there so handsome and so fearless ; and, just
as he began to speak, the sunlight burst through
the mists, falling like a morning blessing upon his
bared head and untarnished uniform. An invol-
untary murmur of applause again rose around him,
and he smiled in response and begged the sorrowful
hearts before him to accept it as an omen of good,
a prophecy of coming victory, peace, and reunion.
And then he pledged himself and his men to all
that was brave, and noble, and true. Can such
speeches be reported ? Can the present generation
even imagine what it was to live in those days?
Such scenes were being repeated somewhere every
day ; and every-where hearts beat high with emo-
tions of self-sacrifice and patriotic daring. Every
loyal soul was aroused and responsive to the over-
mastering impulse of the hour ; and eloquence,
whose very breath is liberty, touched the lips of
every impassioned orator. To live at such a time
was to know the heights of self-renunciation and
the depths of sacrificial pain ; and as the keenness
of that suffering can never be portrayed to those
who did not experience it, neither is it possible to
describe the fervid enthusiasm which was kindled
in that hour of national danger. It ran from heart
to heart, turning timidity to fearlessness, self-seeking
to self-sacrifice, producing armies of heroes ready
112 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
to die upon the altar of their country. And in all
this there was a faith in the sacredness of the altar,
and a firm belief that God was directing in the con-
flict. However it may have been in crowded cities
where grosser motives held partial sway, in many
quiet New England towns this passion of loyalty
was nothing less than religion at white heat. The
cry was, in deed and in truth, " God and our native
A stranger might have failed to appreciate this
fact, for New England enthusiasm does not always
vent itself in noise ; but one who knew how to read
aright would have learned the truth by looking in
the earnest, thoughtful faces of that listening audi-
ence. When Captain Bartlett closed his remarks
the people were too deeply moved to think of ap-
plause. The time to say good-bye was very near.
The old pastor of the brown church raised his hand
and said, " Let us pray ; " and a profound silence,
broken only by deep inspirations and a low under-
tone of sobs, fell upon the people. There are times
when prayer is like the speech of friend to friend ;
and the most careless hearts were touched and ele-
vated as they found themselves commended to the
guidance and protection of Him who was evidently
very near them — so near that the sunshine now fall-
ing brightly every-where seemed no more real than
his presence. But with the solemn "Amen," which
fell from many lips, closed the simple farewell serv-
ice. The leave-taking which followed cannot be
described. There was Captain Bartlett's young wife
in her father's carriage, with white, still face and
tearless eyes which followed his every movement ;
ON TO DIXIE. 113
and very near sat Joe Armstrong's little wife and
the baby, with her father and mother. Vic was
trying to be calm, but her most heroic efforts only
resulted in floods of tears which she concealed as
best she could behind Nellie's sunny head. And
moving through the crowd was Esquire Fletcher,
with eyes suspiciously red, telling every body to
" keep the tears back and give the boys a cheerful
And there were the Hickeys, father and mother
and little sober-faced Emmeline, faithful to "their
boys" to the last; and David Douglas's brave par-
ents, talking cheerily to him and to others whose
friends were not there ; and, in striking contrast, Mr.
Rollins, who watched proceedings with a forbidding
face, ami would have kept Thomas from going to
that " unrighteous war " at the last moment if the
young man had not attained his majority.
Poor Mrs. Follinsbee stood a little apart, with a
child clinging to her dress on either side, proud as
she could be of her big, soldierly husband, yet
crushed and wretched at thought of losing him.
Don Stanley, as straight and handsome as the cap-
tain himself, had been besieged by a bevy of the
village girls, who were wonderfully impressed by his
appearance ; but he was watching for one face which
was not there. Benjie's opportune appearance,
however, gave him a trusty messenger for a hastily
written note to Esther, who was at that moment
shedding her tears alone and thinking with a sinking
heart of the events she could not witness. Ruby
Fletcher was with Miss Hancock and other ladies at
Judge Plumley's front gate, where she looked and
114 THE GILEAD' GUARDS.
listened, with glowing cheeks and changing mood ;
at one moment protesting that Mrs. Plumley ought
not to cry — she wouldn't cry if she had two boys in
the army ; she would say, like that old Roman
matron, "Come home with, or on, your shields" —
and the next moment she would be bidding some
old school-mate good-bye with tears rolling down
Hiel Saunders stopped a moment at the gate to
" I swanny, it's too bad to see our best boys
a-goin' off this way! Makes me wish I could wind
up the whole gover'munt concern." And Ruby,
with elevated chin, declared that he ought to be
ashamed of himseff; and if it were not for his good-
for-nothing eyes she wouldn't give him any peace
until he went himself. Miss Hancock, who knew
that these speeches came from the poor child's sore
heart, patted her hand softly and. whispered :
" 'Tis easy thus to give our anger vent ;
'Tis harder when we find we must repent."
" O, you made that up on purpose for me," said
Ruby, half pettishly. But the old yellow stage and
the large wagons and private conveyances of various
kinds were now in readiness. Last kisses were ex-
changed and last blessings bestowed. The officers
gave their orders, the company drew up in position,
and the next moment all was ready for departure.
The band began to play, caps were lifted, handker-
chiefs waved, eyes met and spoke one more mute
farewell, and with cheers and music and flying flags
the boys in blue rode away.
ON TO DIXIE. 115
Quickly and almost in silence the people began to
disperse. The excitement and display and brave
talk were all over now, and there remained for them
only days of work and days of waiting.
Many a pitying glance followed poor Mrs. Smith,
who seemed to have given so much more than any
one else, as she backed her horse out of the meeting-
house shed and helped the children, Huldah, Abby
Jane, and the little boys, into the two-seated wagon.
She had had offers of assistance, but only replied,
"No, I'm capable, thank you," with the quiet de-
termination of a woman who decides from the first
to be independent. The two girls, with little three-
year-old Prescott, occupied the back seat ; while
Byron, a sedate boy of ten, climbed up beside his
mother, watching her with some apprehension as she
gathered up the reins and started faithful old Doll
toward home. He unconsciously raised himself as
high as possible, as though to make the contrast
between his father's broad shoulders and his dimin-
utive form less apparent, although he felt the differ-
ence most keenly. He had been deeply impressed
and his curiosity had been aroused by the morning's
proceedings ; and after they had jogged along some
time in silence he began to ask questions, like a true
little Yankee as he was.
" Mother, what does father and Homer and
Chester and Pliny want to go to war for? " he asked.
"To put down the rebellion," answered his
mother, recalling her thoughts with an effort.
" What you mean by the rebellion ? "
" Why, the Southern States rebelled — left the
116 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" What for?" persisted Byron.
"The Southern folks kept slaves. All the black
men and women down there were slaves to the white
ones. 'Taint right, and the Northern people said
they shouldn't do it, and they shouldn't make any
more slave States. Then the Southern States said
they wouldn't stay in the Union," explained his
" And was that secesh — what father and the boys
talked about ? "
" Secession ? Yes."
" What was they' going to do when they got out ? "
" Stay out, and have a gover'ment of their own."
Byron meditated a moment.
" And the war is goin' to bring 'em back ? "
" Yes, yes, and free the slaves," said this far-see-
ing and believing woman.
" Well, if it's got to be done I s'pose my father
had to go, and the boys. Do you s'pose, mother,
they will whip and get through afore next spring ? "
he asked, confidentially.
" O, Byron, I hope so, I hope so," said his mother,
" My father'll help a good deal ; " and Byron gave
an assuring nod of his big head. " He's awful
strong, 'most as strong as a giant. I'll bet ye, sir,
he could twist the chains right off 'm them niggers."
" Don't say niggers," interposed Huldah, with a
womanly air, from the depths of her "shaker." " I
read the other day that nobody with any self-respect
would use that word. You must say negroes, or
Byron had oceans of self-respect.
ON TO DIXIE. in
" Well, mother," said he, " if the negroes or col-
ored people get free, would the negroes or colored
people be glad and hallelujah to the starry skies?"
Poor Mrs. Smith's sad, anxious face relaxed into
an actual smile — a small one — as she asked,
" Why, sonny, what do you mean ? "
" That's what Captain Bartlett said, near as I can
remember ; and he said God up in heaven held the
reins in this war."
" Yes, he did, mother ; anyway, that's what he
meant," interposed Huldah. " You was crying so
you didn't notice, I guess."
" That's what he said," continued Byron ; " and
if God up in heaven holds the reins, that means he's
driving — "
" Yes," assented his mother.
" And if he's driving, why, the team can't run
away," said the boy.
Byron concluded his reasoning with a slow, self-
satisfied smile, and turned his attention to the horse
and the slowly revolving wheels, while his mother,
who had been looking into the future with dreary
foreboding, felt comforted as she thought of the
strong Hand that was guiding, not only the nation,
but her own humble affairs, and would surely keep
both from destruction.
It is rather humiliating to acknowledge that any
thing occurred on that bright August morning to
mar its history; but there were a few men, even in
Gilead, who looked upon the departure of the
"Guards" with unsympathetic eyes.
Mr. Slocum and two or three of his " party
friends " had stood upon the outskirts of the crowd,
118 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
and, while they were silenced and awed by the
scene, were quite ready when it was over to take
" Looks very fine to 'em now," said Mr. Green,
sagely, " gives 'em a chance to see the world ; but
they'll change their tune one of these days."
" Yes," struck in Mr. Slocum's high tones; " they
haint smelt gunpowder yet. None of 'em aint
killed nor wounded yet. My boys aint goin\ no,
sir! If this country's bound to go to ruin none of
my family aint goin' to have a hand in it."
So busily were these worthies conversing that
they did not notice the approach of numerous feet
until a concert of hisses attracted their attention,
and, turning, they confronted a dozen boys tramp-
ing sturdily along just in the rear, their eyes flash-
ing and their best efforts concentrated upon the
well-understood " hiss."
" Stop it ! stop it ! clear out and run right away,
you sassy little rascals ! " cried the old man, flour-
ishing his cane right and left.
"Copperhead! copperhead!" shouted the boys
as they scattered, laughing at the result of their ex-
" Boys haint no respec' for gray hairs. They're
all full of this ere war-talk, goin' right straight to
ruin ; don't ye see they be ? "
The old man did not realize how those boys had
been thrilled by what they had heard and seen, nor
that they felt they were vindicating the honor of
their country in opposing him. He did not even
notice that they wore " McClellan caps," nor know
that they could whistle " Rally 'round the flag,
ON TO DIXIE. 119
boys," like a brass band. So he and his compan-
ions continued to discuss government affairs in dole-
ful tones, agreeing that speedy and utter ruin
awaited the country ; and little Byron Smith was
not there to remind them that " God up in heaven
held the reins."
That morning Abram Steele had risen very early,
and while Benjie was hurrying villageward he
strode away to a certain hill pasture where he was
sure to be alone and undisturbed. He did not
think, until he reached the place and began to ex-
amine the fence which he had persuaded himself
needed his attention, that he was nearer town at
that point than he could have been at any other
on the farm. The clear tones of the bell first re-
minded him of this fact ; and after working aim-
lessly for a few moments he laid down his hammer
beside the nail-box, and leaned against a huge gray
rock which formed the corner where two fences
There he stood with arms folded across his breast,
straw hat pushed back, and eyes fixed dreamily upon
the clouds of mist, which, seen from his stand-
point, were already scurrying hither and thither be-
fore the sun's rays. So absorbed was he in his
own thoughts that time passed unheeded, and his
face became almost like that of a statue in its
fixed and silent outline.
It was a face that had always borne close scru-
tiny, for it indicated truthfully his strong, well-bal-
anced character. As the country people said, " It
was recommend enough." But within a few weeks
it had assumed an expression never seen there
120 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
before, the subtle change which surely follows a
rapid development of mental or spiritual life. It
was a typical face — we arc pleased to believe —
which an artist might have chosen for his ideal of
a Puritan, or for one of those early Christians who
heard wild beasts roar and walked upon the arena
to meet them without sign of faltering.
But there was no artist to note symmetry of form
or nobility of feature, and Abram himself did not
even suspect that he was capable of being heroic.
The possibility of taking a course other than that
he had taken after his first struggle had never
occurred to him. There are natures so like a plumb-
line that they are all ready to be used in God's car-
pentry without the endless trouble of straightening.
This is worth remembering in a world where so
many require geometrical demonstration to teach
them how to find the shortest distance between
two given points.
But Abram's high sense of honor, integrity of
purpose, and persistence in action could not pre-
vent his heart going out with a great longing to-
ward the gathering in the village. He fancied him-
self there with the crowd whose applause he felt
almost sure he could hear. He was proud, excited,
and elated as he imagined himself in uniform ready
for speedy departure. Ruby's face, full of enthu-
siasm as it had been on that Sunday evening — was
it a hundred years ago ? — rose before him, and he
saw her dear eyes grow moist while her lips still
smiled as he whispered his last " good-bye." He
saw the fluttering red, white, and blue ribbons at
her throat, and the odor of clove pinks was in the
ON TO DIXIE. 121
air. Hark ! The music of a familiar patriotic march
floated up to his retreat, and he involuntarily lifted
his straw hat and straightened himself, sure that it
must be the signal for final departure. He strained
his ears to catch the last, the very last cornet notes,
and then the faint, far-away roll of the drum ; and
then — with a long-drawn breath, he found himself
standing in the silence alone. The " Gilead Guards"
were on their way to glory, and he was left behind !
And he had wanted to go so much, so much !
He had understood the gospel of the war better
than had most of the boys, and had been uncon-
sciously preparing for it for years, so closely had
he followed, even in his early youth, the develop-
ment of national questions. And now to stay at
home under an imputation of cowardice!
The " path of duty" may be " the path of beauty"
indeed, but it sometimes leads through desert
The wild birds sang in the woods near by that
morning, and in a neighboring pasture a flock of
sheep nibbled between the stones and bleated so-
cially, while aLl through the sultry summer air was
that " background of noise " furnished by droning,
humming, and buzzing insects, intent on fulfilling
their brief missions; but Abram heard nothing, saw
nothing. He was conscious only of a loneliness that
was harder to bear than actual pain. Years after-
ward he said to one who questioned him closely
concerning that period of his life :
" I can't tell you much about that morning. You
must live at such a time, and feel as I did, to
know how I suffered."
122 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" T DECLARE, if I don't believe this must be from
J. Austin Steele ! It's a franked war letter, too !
Well, well, it's been two months or more since they
heard from him to my knowledge, and now it ap-
pears he's gone to war;" and Ira Barstow held
up the plump envelope between himself and the
light curiously. It was plainly directed to Mr.
Steele, and across the end was a scrawl with " M. C."
beneath, indicating that it had received the name
of some congressman, which was sufficient in those
days to bring soldiers' letters to the home office.
Mr. Barstow could not stop to scrutinize the
letter as he would have done in former days. The
time had been when he could have given the history
of the town as it sifted through his hands in limited
correspondence ; but soldiers' letters and extra
papers made Gilead's mail-bag plethoric, and the
people, instead of coming to the office once a week,
came every night and crowded the limited space,
waiting impatiently for the news, until he was well-
nigh distracted with rapid work and outside noise.
He did not fully enjoy the change, for it seemed
like defrauding government to push such valuable
documents into their respective boxes with no
time to speculate over post-marks. Mr. Barstow
AUSTIN'S LETTER. 123
was alone in the world, and his work supplied in a
sense the lack of fireside and friends.
Benjie was late in calling for his mail that night,
and Mr. Barstow felt almost vexed over the delay.
" It's from Austin, I guess," said he, yielding the
letter at length to the boy's eager fingers. " Your
folks worried any? Must be he's gone to war.
Thinks I, may be Abram knew it all along."
Benjie looked at the familiar handwriting, opened
his lips as if to speak, closed them again, thrust it
into his pocket, and hurried away.
Mr. Barstow laughed silently.
" Close-mouthed, like all the family," said he.
" ' Tend to their own business and keep their own
counsel, and that's all right. No law to prevent
that ever I heard of."
There was a commotion in Mr. Steele's sitting-
room when Benjie burst in, more breathless and
excited than usual, and exclaiming, " Letter from
Austin at last ! " threw it upon the table in front of
Abram sprang up from his desk with a look of
relief and expectation ; his mother and the girls
hurried in from the kitchen, and Mr. Steele, peering
through his spectacles at the letter which he held
in his trembling hand, said in the words of Mr.
" It appears he's gone to war ! Read it, Abram."
Abram did not at once respond. He had torn it
open and was scanning page after page, searching
for something he evidently did not find ; for after a
moment's delay his face lost its brightness and he
handed the letter to Esther.
124 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" You read Austin's writing better than I," said
he, and returned to his quiet corner.
" Read it, I can't wait ;" and Mrs. Steele, with
hands tightly clasped, leaned back in her rocking-
chair with closed eyes. Esther bent her head to
the lamp and began :
"'In Camp, September 25, 1862.
" ' Dear Father : You will all be surprised to get
a letter from Virginia instead of Massachusetts, unless
Uncle Austin has written about my enlisting. As I
asked him not to I presume you have been wondering
and worrying, perhaps, for some time. I ought to
have written at once, and intended to, but waited
for time and quiet and conveniences, until I found
if such business was attended to at all it must be
just when I could get a few spare moments right in
the midst of disturbance, and with no better writing-
desk than my knapsack or the bottom of my tin
" ' You know, too, what a boy I am to put off till
to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, and I
dreaded to break the news and ask you to forgive
me for enlisting without your consent. But you
will, all of you, wont you ? ' "
" Yes, we will," cried Benjie, snapping his fingers
and nodding his head excitedly, while his mother
" Bless his heart ! He was always quick to do
wrong and quick to repent."
Esther read on :
" ' But, father, if you had been in Boston and heard
the music and the cheering and the speeches, and
A US TIN 'S LE TTER. 1 25
seen the flags flying and the regiments marching,
you would have felt just as I did. Why, it was
Uncle Tom s Cabin and Horace Greeley's Tribune
editorials and Elder Put's sermons mixed together
and taken hot. I said to myself, " If father was
younger, and wasn't lame, he would go;" and I
kept thinking of what you had said until it seemed
to me you would expect me to go. Well, by and
by I could not think of any thing else. My appe-
tite was all gone and my work was drudgery. At
last I went with two other clerks, who were going
to enlist to fill up the ranks of an old regiment, the
— the Massachusetts, and right then and there I
gave my name, and was accepted, too. I expected
there might be trouble about my age, but the others
were older than I, and one of them answered for
me. He said afterward he didn't know but I was
twenty-one ; if I wasn't I ought to be.
" 'At any rate, almost before I realized it I was a
soldier. I called at Uncle Austin's and told him I
was going. He never says much, you know, but
was sorry I had been in such a hurry — said I ought
to have written and got your consent at least ;
and I didn't tell him I was afraid you would not
" ' Aunt Elizabeth said a great deal, as her habit
is, and gave me lots of good advice. If I could fol-
low it I should be too good for this world. She
gave me a Testament, and I felt real tender over
it till she said she got it for nothing of a Bible
Even the tearful mother had to join in the gen-
eral laugh which followed this characteristic an-
126 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
nouncement ; for Aunt Elizabeth, whose wealth
seemed fabulous to her husband's country relatives,
was far from generous.
" ' There is one thing more you ought to know,
although I am ashamed to tell it. I did not go
to Mr. Webber at all after we enlisted. We had
just been paid, and the other clerks said he was a
hard man to deal with when he got excited ; so we
just kept clear of the store till we left the city,
which was only a few days afterward.' "
Mr. Steele's face flushed and his voice trembled
as he said :
" That's bad for Austin. He hadn't ought to
have done so. That wasn't the square thing."
" He says so himself, father ; just hear; " and Es-
ther continued :
" ' I am ashamed of it now, and also that I was so
extravagant that I had only money enough to get
me what I needed to bring away. I got to going with
a couple of the clerks who were not very good fel-
lows — not the ones who enlisted — and spent money
foolishly. I did not realize what they were until
just before I left ; but I am fairly away from their in-
fluence now, and will try to be a credit to you.' "
" Poor boy ! " said his mother, pressing her hand-
kerchief to her eyes ; " how could we have consented
to let him go down to that wicked city?"
But Abram, with his hands thrust into his hair
and his eyes dry and stern, said to himself, " Of
course he didn't want to see Mr. Webber." From
his view of the case his worst fears were con-
firmed, and he felt that his last hope was also
AUSTIN'S LETTER. 127
Esther read on :
" ' When I lie down in my blanket at night I think
of you all and remember your counsel. Last night
I dreamed of that fall I had, years ago, from a
cherry-tree, when Abram lugged me home on his
back. He was always so good to me — it makes me
feel mean when I think may be he wanted to come
down to Dixie — but he isn't the kind of fellow to
feel as I did about it. If I had gone home to work
on the farm I should have been good for nothing;
but now if I get popped over down here you will
have the best one left.
" ' I meant to have told you about a skirmish I was
in the other day— for Benjie's benefit — but can't this
time. Will write him soon. Meanwhile I hope
you will send me the home news as soon as possible,
for when I stop to think of you all it seems as
though I could not wait to hear. Write how your
lameness is ; how the crops are this fall ; who has
enlisted that I know, and how you feel about the
war. If the folks get blue tell them we are not ; for
we expect to win in less than a year. There is a
rumor that we are to move soon, and I must ascer-
tain how your letters will reach me.' "
And with an animated scrawl of an eagle sup-
posed to be burdened with love for each member
of the family Austin's epistle closed.
" Well," said Mr. Steele, polishing his spectacles
carefully on a corner of the table-cloth, " I'd thought
of it, but he hadn't ought to have 'listed that way.
Don't take it too hard, mother ; we're no wuss off than
thousands. When a boy gets bewitched to go he
seems to lose his head ; " and the old farmer resumed
128 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
his newspaper-reading, apparently, although for some
minutes his Tribune was wrong side up.
" I think he might have told us about the fight,
anyhow," grumbled Benjie. " I'll write to-morrow,
see if I dont, and ask him a thousand questions.
Where does he say to send his letters?"
Esther looked carefully.
" I don't find any thing— I am afraid — " And
then they all examined every page again ; but ev-
idently the careless boy, hungry as he was for home
news, had neglected to add the information he was
so anxious to give.
The letter was re-read and reviewed by Esther
and Mary, with Benjie's head between theirs ; and
much that he had not written was "guessed at; "
for a loving curiosity will press through the narrow
gate-way of a pen-flourish in search of reasons and
motives and feelings which might have influenced
the writer. But in no way could they discover the
lacking address, and their only hope was that
another letter was already on its way. One fact,
however, was established in Benjie's mind, at least —
Austin was the hero of the family, and from the
parlor-table he brought the old daguerreotype and
the new " Boston photograph," to be examined with
this character in view. In the first Austin was a
round-faced boy of fourteen, with rigid muscles and
scared yet resolute face.
" There's a real die-on-the-field-of-battle look,
now, just as plain as can be ; " and Benjie rubbed
the glass and held the picture in a favorable light,
that his sisters might catch the prophetic expres-
sion. " Now see this one ! " and with genuine pride
AUSTIN'S LETTER. 129
Benjie balanced the photograph of the hero, taken
on his nineteenth birthday, against a pile of books.
" That's Austin, sure enough ! Must look gay in
his new blue clothes." But as he spoke a mistiness
obscured the boy's eyes, and the girls turned away
from the bright young face that smiled at them so
hopefully with quivering lips. Their mother left
the room after one glance at the picture, and Benjie
took it back to its sacred corner, remaining in the
dark parlor several minutes and returning very
quietly. It was a grand thing to have a brother in
the army, of course ; but one must be careful about
He was soon busy looking over a Harper s Weekly
with Mary, and as they examined the pictures
which brought the scenes of the war so vividly be-
fore them they whispered their views of their broth-
er's future career. But Esther, with a sudden
thought which made her heart beat very fast, moved
her chair into the corner beside Abram's desk.
" Did you know before to-night that Austin had
enlisted?" she asked, in an eager whisper. He
looked at her a moment thoughtfully and bowed.
Her eyes grew large with surprise and excitement.
" Was that the reason of your staying at home ? "
Again he bowed gravely, and dipped his pen as
though to continue writing ; but she tapped his arm
with her knitting-needle impatiently.
" Why didn't you say so, then ? "
Abram smiled at her indignant tone.
" Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies,"
said he ; " that's district-school policy."
But Esther would not be put off.
130 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" Abram," said she, gravely, " you know how we
have all felt. Now, for all our sakes, and for Ru-
by's sake, I'm just going to tell every body how it
is. It's a shame ! "
Abram turned toward her with a look she never
" You wont do any such thing. There are other
reasons that I can't tell you — reasons that mustn't
be known. I promise you to explain just as soon
as I can ; but till then you must trust me — and —
pity me, if you want to. If you want to help me,
Esther, never even hint that you know more than
the rest of the family."
Esther was amazed, but dared press her question-
ings no further. One point, however, she ventured
to urge, for she had felt keenly the alienation from
Ruby Fletcher, and was eager to see the old relations
" I'll do any thing you say, Abram, if you'll only
let me give Ruby one little hint — just so she will
understand you're not to blame."
" Never ! " said he, sternly ; and then, after a
struggle with himself, he added : " Esther, I wrote
Ruby a note asking her to see me and let me make
an explanation. That was several weeks ago — just
before she went to the seminary. But she — sent it
Esther's eyes flashed.
" I didn't think she could ! O, I'm glad she's
gone, and I will never write to her — never ! "
" No, I wouldn't. It would hardly be the thing
After a little pause he continued :
A USTIN J S LE TTER. 131
" Don't think I'm going to break down under
this trouble. I have had some experience along
with it that I couldn't be persuaded to part with.
I'm going to think of other things, too — like this,
for instance," handing her a geology. " Suppose
you learn about the rocks too. Perhaps if we turn
toward the past we may not think so much about
It is but fair to state in this connection that
Abram was not the only one who had adopted
study as a relief. Ruby had lost her appetite and
" sithed," as Martha Thompson had stated, until
her father's patience was exhausted. In consulta-
tion with Miss Hancock he had said, desperately :
" She shall go away to school and find something
else to think about. She must go on with her mu-
sic under better teachers than we have here ; so get
her ready, mother, and I'll take her to Hope Sem-
So Mrs. Fletcher obediently prepared Ruby for
the new life, and the stubborn little patriot, after
crowning her martyrdom by sending back Abram's
letter, made a knot of fresh " red, white, and blue "
for her pretty gray traveling-dress and left Gilead,
determined to forget the past.
132 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON.
THE open country is always conscious of the
approach of winter. In city and town there
are a thousand ways of beguiling one's self with a
prolonged autumn ; but genuine country livers un-
derstand very well what comes " after harvesting."
And Gilead saw indisputable signs, from lowest val-
ley to highest hill-top, that winter was at its doors.
The brilliance of its forests was gone, and there
remained only the evergreens mingled with sober
browns, which grew purple here and there at sunset.
The summer birds had flown, and their empty nests,
swinging on many a bare gaunt branch, were but
pitiful reminders of songs and sunshine. A pre-
monitory chill was in the wind as it swept across
the stubble of wide corn-fields, shaking the brown
shriveled leaves still clinging to the low-cut stalks ;
and there is nothing that looks colder in all the
wide range of hill and plain than these same faded
rustling tatters of former greenness and glory.
The farm-houses were all " banked," giving them a
comical tucked-up appearance, and every thing was
made as snug and secure as possible, for Gilead al-
ways expected six months of cold weather. Finally
the last harrow-shaped flock of wild geese had cloven
the sky and disappeared southward with its weird
MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 133
farewell " Honk ! honk ! honk ! " And then, with a
preliminary roaring in the wind-swept hills, came the
first snow, just whiteningthe frozen fields with coquet-
tish flurries at first, and a little later captivating the
town in a single night, thereby meeting the general
expection of " sleighing before Thanksgiving." Like
all genuine New England towns Gilead made much
of this annual festival, not only by family reunions
and feasting, but by attending public religious serv-
ice. So this year, closing as it was in national
distress, the people were called to make public and
private acknowledgment of their " manifold mer-
cies." It was well that they were bidden so to do,
for every thing conspired to turn their thoughts in
an opposite channel.
The "union service" was to be held this year
in the brown church, and, by regular rotation, it
became the duty of the Rev. G. Harmon Phelps to
Our young friend was nearly distracted. As once
before stated, he was from New Jersey, and he
steadfastly persisted in " discouraging " the war. A
fast-day discourse he could have extemporized at a
moment's notice, but after several days of exhaust-
ing brain-work he found he was as far as ever from
Thanksgiving. General McClellan had been re-
moved from the command of the Army of the Po-
tomac — a fact which had caused great anxiety and
foreboding all through the North ; and the minister,
who had looked upon him as a " chosen leader,"
couldn't imagine where the Lord was to find an-
other man to take " Little Mac's " place. Could he
have foreseen the terrible slaughter and defeat of
134 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Union soldiers which was to occur at Fredericks-
burg in less than three weeks he would have given
up his task in despair. As it was he gathered up
his manuscript and took it down to his wife. She
groaned inwardly when she saw his cloud-capped
brow and fluttering notes ; but, having married him
" for better, for worse," she showed no sign of
distress when he coolly brushed her sewing out
of the arm-chair and sat down.
" I want to read you what I have jotted down for
next Thursday, Letty," he began. " May be you
can tell what ails it. It isn't very cheerful, I admit ;
but what there is to be cheerful over I can't see."
As he read, pausing occasionally to explain un-
developed points, she grew more and more per-
plexed. It would never do to preach such lugubri-
ous stuff to modern Puritans and patriots, she was
sure ; but it was very hard to tell her husband so.
He had a peculiar habit — it must have been pecul-
iar — of clinging to his opinions with all the energy
of his nature; and she had to practice a diplomacy
she did not admire to bring about any change which
to her practical common sense seemed desirable.
" There, " said he, after he had finally " perorated "
the government into a strait between Scylla and
Charybdis, " how's that for a Thanksgiving dis-
course ? The people will feel more like taking
wormwood than roast turkey when I get through,
wont they ? Speak right out, Letty."
" We-ell," and Mrs. Phelps thoughtfully smoothed
a seam while her eyes kindled as she set her thoughts
in order, " since you have suggested it, Harmon, I
must say it seems more like Lamentations than
MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON 135
Psalms. Now, if you stood at my angle you would
see a great deal to be thankful for, and you would
lay that sermon aside for a — for a — well, for Mr.
Slocum's funeral occasion perhaps." She looked up,
and, the merry twinkle of her eyes proving conta-
gious, there followed a hearty laugh, which was a
great advantage every way.
"You are unmerciful, Letty ; but go on. What
do you see from your angle? " and the minister be-
gan to clip the first leaf of his " lamentation " with
her shining scissors.
Mrs. Phelps's face flushed, but she began bravely :
" Why, I see great cause for rejoicing in the patriot-
ism of our Northern States. Many of our soldiers
don't understand much more about political expe-
dients and sectional questions than I do, but they
know the country is in danger, and are willing to
risk every thing in its defense. This is old, I know,
but it seems to me it will bear repeating just now ;
for if you can make the people feel that they are a
part of a loyal whole they will be strengthened by
it. Secondly, I should enlarge upon the record this
town has made, which certainly is remarkable, and
just pile up the references and illustrations until
every body is full of gratitude and pride. And
while they were thinking of the boys away down in
Virginia and in Washington forts and out in places
of danger I should just tell them to take care of
those that were left behind, and give them thanks-
giving cheer all the long cold winter. I'd tell them,
too, how grateful they ought to be that this part of the
country is undisturbed. Our churches and schools are
open, as usua 1 !, our abundant harvests have been gath-
130 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
ered in peace, and we are really free from the horrors
of war as experienced in the South. And above all,
Harmon, show the people that this is a war for the
right — for liberty ; that it is God's war against the
sins of our nation. And if you must speak of
McClellan — and feeling as you do I suppose you will
— don't be blue over him. God has a man for the
place, and he will find him, though all the sons of
Jesse pass in review and are rejected."
Frightened by her own intense feeling, and fearing
she had said too much, Mrs, Letty laid her hand
timidly upon her husband's shoulder and added in
an apologetic tone, " Now, perhaps I've said too
much, but you— you started me."
Her husband kissed her hand humbly as he replied,
" I licensed you as an exhorter, but lo, and behold !
you are a full-fledged preacher! Don't say a word,
yeu are a regular Deborah ! I begin to feel your
courage in my finger-tips. Yes, honestly, Letty,
your angle gives a better view than mine — for a
Thanksgiving discourse — and your ideas are very
good indeed — for a woman."
This was a wonderful concession, and " Deborah "
was wise enough to make no further comments.
When, a few minutes later, her husband stole away
to his study looking very much like a man with
an idea, she smiled happily and brushed up the
fragments of the " funeral sermon " from the car-
" What's come over your husband, Sister Phelps? "
inquired Esquire Fletcher, shaking her hand warmly
after the service on Thanksgiving day. " He's given
us a regular, straight, encouraging kind of a sermon,
MA'S. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 137
Tell him I believe he was inspired. It was just
what we needed, just what we needed!" And the
good man's face shone with genuine feeling.
The congregation had been unusually large, and
many were prepared to sympathize with the senti-
ments they expected the young minister to advance.
He had more than once given them reason to call
him a conservative ; but if he enjoyed that reputation
he destroyed it forever by the fresh, hopeful, and
exceedingly practical discourse which revived and
strengthened all who listened that bright cold No-
vember day in '62.
All sorts of benevolent projects and charitable
impulses received a new inspiration, and no sooner
was the benediction pronounced than a sort of
informal business meeting was inaugurated upon
In the absence of bulletin-boards and daily papers
such a gathering takes the place of both, and
one " not to the maner born " would be surprised
to see what could be accomplished between the pews
and outer church door. On this peculiar occasion
Mrs. Plumley grasped Miss Hancock as soon as the
proprieties would admit to arrange with her for the
packing of boxes to be sent to " the boys" before
Christmas ; while Esther Steele, who stood at her
elbow, nearly forgot to beg for "just one day's help
in making over a dress," so absorbed did she be-
come in the plans of these energetic women.
Meanwhile Abram was quietly busy among the
young people, enlisting their sympathies in Mrs.
Smith's behalf, whose corn needed husking, and
whose home force was quite unequal, in his opinion,
138 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
to the task. In less than ten minutes he had pledged
eight young ladies and as many young men and
boys to serve their country by giving a long even-
ing to her interests. It was stated on good authority
throughout Gilead that " Abram Steele had lost his
reputation;" but for one thus bereft he seemed to
have a very potent influence, never failing to secure
plenty of followers in any project.
At the same time Mr. Douglas was circulating
among the older people, reminding them that it
was nearly time for their " annual donation visit."
His " brethren " were quite ready to respond, for
had not their minister covered himself and the
white church with honor? Before he left the place
a committee was appointed and a notice written
for insertion in the next issue of the Standard.
Several lonely women who anticipated a sorrowful
day were surprised by invitations to dinner, and
Esquire Fletcher surprised himself by remembering
Corporal Follinsbee's little brood and sending them
by Hiel's willing hands a basket of his finest apples
and a pound of toothsome confectionery. But we
cannot follow all the influences that were set in
motion that day, a part of which were certainly
strengthened or suggested by the sermon.
" Did I expound your sentiments satisfactorily
to-day, Letty? " asked the minister, as they reached
home late in the evening after enjoying the hospi-
tality of a parishioner.
" Your sermon was excellent, sir ; you must know
that, for I saw the people smiling and shaking hands
with you. Tell me what they said, if you dare ! "
There was no direct reply to this until Mr, Phelps
MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 139
had built a fire in the little sitting-room stove and
arrayed himself in dressing-gown and slippers.
Then, while the flames went roaring and dancing
up the chimney, the young couple sat down for a
few moments to enjoy the coziness of their own
hearth-stone, and he said :
" They liked the sermon, Letty, because it was
encouraging, I think ; and then — well, I may as well
admit that they thought it indicated a change in my
sentiments. And all the credit belongs to you, my
dear. No, don't protest ; you know very well that
I was your mouth-piece to-day, At first I was a
little spiteful about it ; but from your angle I saw
some views that affected me strangely. I wasn't
brought up to look at slavery as New England peo^
pie do, and I must confess my sympathies were with
the chivalry of the South ; but lately I have begun
to question my own position, and concluded that as
I am in New England I might as well do as the
New Englanders do ; " and he laughed in some
confusion, for his wife was looking at him very ear-
nestly, and her eyes were sometimes inconveniently
"You mean that you believe at last in the Con-
stitution as it was, is, and ever shall be. You mean
that you are a newly converted patriot, and you are
sorry you haven't struck a blow for the Union
before, and that from this time forth your pulpit
shall be — "
" Divided with my wife," interrupted her hus-
She shook her head and placed her hand over his
140 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" I don't want a pulpit ; but if I had one in these
days I wouldn't dare preach any thing but liberty
to the captive and the opening of prison doors to
those who are bound," said she, solemnly.
" Amen ! " responded the minister.
It was not long before the plans arranged that
day matured successfully. The " husking-party "
took Mrs. Smith by storm, and to the unspeakable
delight of the children turned the discouraging
heaps of corn into bushels of golden ears ready for
market. The young people also carried with them
so much good cheer, so many songs and stories and
friendly words, that their visit lasted, in a sense, all
winter, and brightened many a cold, windy evening
when the family was " snow-bound."
The "donation visit" also became a reality. It
was held in the white church on Christmas eve, and
was counted a brilliant success, although by some
strange yet well-understood policy all the money
collected was counted on the preacher's salary. If
that particular " collection " had been preserved it
would be far more valuable now than it seemed
that night when it was tied up in Mr. Douglas's red
bandanna for safe-keeping. It was a time when
silver currency, like some people, had " fled to Can-
ada; " at least such was the popular belief, and gov-
ernment had provided nothing, as yet, to take its
place. Scrip was beginning to circulate, but there
were also postage-stamps, single and in little en-
velopes, " tokens " in the semblance of a one-cent
piece, and a great many notes issued by business
firms, which were called " shin-plasters." A ten-cent
postage-stamp in a little brass frame was another
MRS. PHELPS'S THANKSGIVING SERMON. 141
curious device of the times to be found in that won-
derful collection ; and some impecunious individual
slipped in several army buttons. With true Yankee
persistence the people were bound to " make
change," honestly if they could, dishonestly if
they must. " But the meanest thing," said Benjie
Steele, after the affair was all over, " was what Rast
Slocum did. He put in one postage-stamp — just
one — and it had been used on a letter ! Yes, sir !
and then he sat down and eat a dollar supper."
Through Benjie's unsolicited efforts this fact was
widely circulated ; but about ten days later it was
discovered that Rast had been more generous than
was apprehended; for, while the minister had not
been enriched in basket or in store by his munifi-
cence, he had given the measles to every body who
was capable of accepting them, Benjie himself be-
ing one of the ungrateful recipients. This disease,
so thoroughly distributed, diverted the energies of
Gilead into a new channel, wherein was displayed
the skill of the two physicians, many mothers, and
our friend Miss Hancock.
142 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION.
u T NEVER really expected I'd live to see such
A a document as this in print," said Mr. Steele, as
he polished his spectacles and unfolded the Stand-
ard of January 9, 1863, containing the full text of
the Emancipation Proclamation, which gave free-
dom to more than three millions of slaves ! With
intense satisfaction his eyes ran down the col-
umn until he found and read aloud with empha-
sis, "' And by virtue of the power, and for the pur-
pose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all per-
sons held as slaves within the said designated States
and parts of States are and henceforward shall be
free!'" He paused, with one finger upon the
words, to ejaculate, " Praise the Lord ! How the
old saints and martyrs must have felt when the
news reached them up in the New Jerusalem ! "
" You don't know as they've heard of it yet."
Uncle Rufus made this remark. It is sometimes
inconvenient to pause long enough to introduce a
character; but in this case one word is sufficient
— he was a controversialist. He stood in front of
the fire-place, his coat-tails judiciously parted and
held out of harm's way while his broad back rejoiced
in the heat which seemed to go roaring up the
broad chimney when it should have been warming
THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TlON. 143
the corners of the room. Uncle Rufus was short
and stout, with gray hair rising perversely from his
forehead. His eyebrows were thick and beetling,
his under-lip prominent, and, better than meat and
drink, he loved an argument. Hence, no sooner did
Mr. Steele, in the fullness of his spiritual faith, refer
to saints and angels than he drew his eyebrows to
a more roof-like projection and planted his feet
more firmly upon the braided rug before the fire-
place as he exclaimed, " You don't know as they've
heard of it yet."
" I can't think but what they knew when the
chains was broke, Brother Rufus. Probably they
haint worried as I have since last September, fearin'
'twouldn't come true after all ; but they knew —
bless ye, of course they did."
"You Methodists take things for granted which
concern the heavenly world," said Uncle Rufus, his
voice growing loud. " If — if saints and martyrs
rejoice over the proclamation, then it follows that
they've sorrowed over slavery heretofore. But this
contradicts the Scriptur' statement that there's no
sorrow in heaven ! " and in pure admiration of his
own logic Uncle Rufus balanced himself upon his
toes only to settle back to his old position more
" I don't suppose there is sorrow there such as
we have here," responded Mr. Steele; "but I can't
help thinkin' they've known up there all about this
slavery blot and about the war; and I wouldn't a
mite wonder if the strongest angel there is amongst
'em was sent down to stiddy Abraham Lincoln's
hand when he writ this."
144 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Uncle Rufus gave a snort of opposition.
"You forget the exceedin' sinfulness of war,
which proves to high heaven the unworthiness of
, us poor human beings. There should be peace in-
stid of war and bloodshed."
" There couldn't have been without a compromise
with sin," said Mr. Steele, shaking his gray head
sadly. " As things turned what could a President
do but what Lincoln has done ? May be you noticed
this, Brother Rufus: 'And upon this act, sincerely
believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the
Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the
considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious
favor of Almighty God.' There aint any consait
about it. He's done the square thing, and looks to
see God and man stand by him."
" 1 don't say he's done wrong ; I don't say he's
done right; " and Uncle Rufus's eyes grew a little
fierce. " I do say he may be honest and make a
big blunder. I do say I tremble for the future ; for
a man's heart may be soft while his judgment aint
safe to go by. Gover'munt's got a big job on hand
to take care of 'em. Can she do it ? I ask you, can
she do it ?"
Mr. Steele laughed good-naturedly. " We shall
see, it's likely, one of these days. We'd ought to
know by this time that there's ways and means un-
beknown to us."
Uncle Rufus shook his head dismally and pro-
ceeded to state, with the forefinger of his right
hand beating time upon the palm of his left, how
the President's act was hazardous and premature,
how the colored people were likely to abuse their
THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TIOiV. 145
freedom, and how, after all, the nation would be
destroyed by those it sought to save.
" I see Ben Butler has some such notion," re-
sponded Mr. Steele, taking up his paper again and
reading : " ' The institution cursed of God, which
has taken its last refuge here, in his providence will
be rooted out as the tares from the wheat, although
the wheat be torn up with it.' That's what he says
down in Orleans when he made his farewell speech.
Nobody doubts but some of the wheat '11 be tore up
— North and South. Haint we seen it down there
to Fredericksburg ? But it's my opinion the nation '11
" That's what I tell Rufus," remarked his wife, a
plump, happy-faced woman, who sat rocking back
and lorth in the corner. " I tell him if he'd stop
argufyin' and go to pray in' he'd be lots happier.
But if you'll believe it, Brother Benjamin, if he don't
have any body else to talk to he argufies with me."
And at the manifest absurdity of such a waste of
time she laughed so heartily that her husband was
obliged to smile ; which weakness on his part was
equal to a defeat. He was one of those whose opin-
ions are always hot if not heavy, and such was his
temperament that during the war he lived in a tem-
pest of discussion. Every country town had at
least one such pessimistic orator, and some were
blessed with a circle of similar kindred spirits large
enough to surround the stove in the store and
plan campaigns for the entire army. And yet
Uncle Rufus was a patriot, and had sent one son to
the front. His misgivings were those of a man
who could not see how good was to come out of
146 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
evil, or how success was to follow the perplexities
of those gloomy days. It was quite a relief to the
family when his visit was over and the worthy
couple departed in their high-backed green sleigh
to the music of slow-tinkling bells.
" Father, why didn't you give it to him harder?"
called Benjie from the bedroom where measles still
kept him a prisoner.
" Why, Benjie," said Mary, reproachfully, " do
you think father would dispute with Uncle Rufus?"
" I would, now, you better believe. He no busi-
ness to talk so discouraging. O, I heard him ! It's
awful mean, now;" and Benjie's speckled face
glowed with righteous indignation.
"Such talk wont spread like measles. There's
nobody foolish enough to mind it," said Abram,
Benjie gave a turn and toss that tumbled the bed-
" I guess you don't know how blue it made me
feel ; " and his voice faltered suspiciously. " If any
body else comes while I'm sick I hope they'll know
enough to talk sensible."
In response, seemingly, to this very reasonable
hope came Miss Hancock the next morning, just as
Benjie was transferred to the sitting-room lounge
well wrapped in shawls and with a green paper shade
over his eyes.
" I thought I never should get here, Esther," said
she, cheerily, as she stamped the snow from her
feet ; " but the measles have given me close work
for a week, I can tell you. So many sick at once,
you know. Of course the soldiers' families must be
THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TION. 147
looked after, and I've tried to be faithful — a day
here and a day there, and nights wherever help was
By this time she was ready for work, having pro-
duced thimble, pincushion, shears, and tape-measure
with workmanlike rapidity. The family felt the
charm of her presence at once. Esther's old brown
dress which had looked so utterly hopeless all at
once grew more promising as she laid it, nicely
ripped and pressed, at Miss Hancock's elbow. Ben-
jie, who had fretted and fumed like a full-grown
man because he wasn't allowed to read, beamed
with good nature ; and Mr. Steele, kept in-doors by
his lameness, laid aside his paper as though he ex-
pected something more entertaining than that.
*' I don't know how I can settle down to sewing
to-day on account of that proclamation. Why, Mr.
Steele," said she, earnestly, " it has uplifted this
whole nation. I have felt ever since I read it as
though I could take a timbrel and sing the song of
Miriam. Not that it's the end, but it's the begin-
ning of the end. Every body feels so. The stage-
driver said as we came along this morning that it
was the good air made people so happy, and I said
in return that 'twas furnished by government. I
don't think he understood what I meant really."
" Where 've you been taking care of measle cases,
Miss Hancock? " asked Mrs. Steele, as she carefully
deposited the last of a half dozen pumpkin-pies in
" First with Mrs. Follinsbee, last Sunday night
and Monday. Little Hi was very sick, but gained
so fast Monday that I left and went over to see Vic
148 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
Armstrong's little Nell. The child was comfortably
sick, but poor Vic was wild with fright. She's — well,
no matter about that. Then I got the young
doctor to take me up to Mr. Hickey's. We tipped
over only three times on the way. She is down
with pleurisy, and the little girl with measles, of
course. I stayed with her until Wednesday night,
then went to Mrs. Smith's."
"In that snow-storm?" " How did you ever get
there?" asked Esther and Benjie in the same
" Well, Mr. Hickey had a letter for her from
Washington ; and so, toward night — you know the
storm was over at sunset — he took his shovel and
said he was going across the ridge — through the
pasture, you know — to deliver it and see how they
were. So I followed on. I could step in his tracks
nicely, and, to tell the truth, I wore a pair of John
Henry's old boots."
Benjie laughed heartily as his vivid imagination
pictured the scene, and Miss Hancock joined him,
" I never followed a man so closely before in all
my life. Well, we found that poor woman with the
four children sick in bed and not a soul to do a
thing. The snow was drifted to the top of the well-
curb and 'way up to the kitchen windows, and there
wasn't a sign of a path to the barn ; and she was
rigged up in her husband's old buffalo coat, his
boots, cap, and mittens, trying to shovel out."
"Glad to see you, wasn't she?" asked Benjie.
" Glad ! She dropped her shovel and broom and
took me in by the fire, and then she broke down
THE EMANCIPA TION PROCLAMA TION. 149
and cried as much as five minutes, with her head on
my shoulder. She hadn't heard from her husband
and the boys for two weeks, and the children were
all pretty sick. Byron had been wild with fever all
night before, so she hadn't slept a wink ; and when
she saw the snow-drifts she said she felt almost dis-
couraged, but hoped I would excuse her for giving
way to such feelings. I cried, too, to keep her
company, and thought to myself that any woman
who could be snowed in with four sick children and
hear the wind rattling the windows and howling
down the chimney all night and not get nervous
would be a strange creation. Well, Mr. Hickey
broke out all her. paths and fed the cattle while she
was milking ; and the letter brought good news, and
I took care of the children that night, and the
measles all came out beautiful. So yesterday morn-
ing when I left her the world looked quite bright
again. She's been spinning a lot of the nicest yarn,
Mrs. Steele, just as soft and even ; so if you know
of any body that wants to buy send them up
" Does she do all her work — outdoor work and
all?" asked Esther, curiously.
" Every thing but threshing. She and the girls
have sawed and split a nice lot of wood, and it is
piled elegantly. The money that comes from the
army would be enough to pay for having all these
hard things done, but the children will want to go
away to school, so she saves every cent of it. O, I
can't see why she isn't just as brave and grand a
woman as my great-great-aunt who killed two In-
dians with an ax when they were trying to break
750 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
down the door ! It's the real old Puritan foremother
spirit, if her name is Smith."
" Smith by marriage, that's all. She was a Pea-
body, from York State," said Mr. Steele, musingly.
Miss Hancock filled her mouth with pins just then
and proceeded to fit a lining to Esther's waist — a
process which Benjie watched with apprehension.
"That aint the way men have their coats cut,"
said he. The pins came out immediately, for Miss
Hancock began to laugh.
" Foolish notion to use your mouth for a pin-
cushion, isn't it?" said she. " I know it's tempting
Providence. No, Benjie, be thankful you're a man
and can have your coat cut by a pattern that gives
plenty of room. Some dress-makers use patterns,
but I like the old way best, so I pin on the lining
and cut it to fit before I touch the material. I wish
you had a new dress to make, Esther, instead of this,
for I'm going to have good luck with your shoul-
ders, I know."
" 'Sh ! " whispered Esther. " I wanted one so
much, but Abram is short of money this winter for
some reason, and I wouldn't say one word about it.
Mother thinks this will be as nice as new. O, dear ! "
and Esther heaved a long sigh as she glanced rather
contemptuously at her " old brown."
" Never mind, you always look well in any thing.
If it wasn't for wearing such large hoops one could
make over dresses much better ; but there it is, six
breadths, calico width, in the skirt, and all in plain
sight — faded places, darns, and all. You might as
well try to hide a rent in an umbrella. I'm really
tired of hoops."
THE EMANCIPATk)N PROCLAMATION. 151
" Why, Miss Hancock ! " laughed Esther, " I
wouldn't be hired to go without."
" O, of course we must follow the fashion,
" I wish you'd talk so I can hear," said Benjie,
fidgeting on the lounge.
" We will," replied Miss Hancock, graciously ;
"I was just about to say to Esther that it would
be an advantage if we didn't need so much material
to make a dress now, every thing is so high-priced.
Common calico is twenty cents a yard. Still, we
must be thankful we don't have to pay Southern
prices. According to the papers cotton cloth is
two or three dollars a yard, and coffee about four
dollars a pound."
" Poor folks will have to drink cold water at that
rate," said Esther.
" Makes me think what a contraband told the
soldiers when he reached our army. He said the
rebels had ' plenty of nuffin '," added Benjie.
" Spectators '11 do all they can to keep prices
'way up, and cotton goods must be scurce, of
course ; but I'm thinkin' the proclamation's sure
to bring things to a head afore long," said Mr.
" That's just what Mr. Hickey says, but I don't
know ; we must hope so. That reminds me, Benjie,
of something that happened yesterday. I rode down
the hill with Mr. Hickey in his long pung with his
grist, and when we reached old gentleman Dow's
he came out and begged a ride to the post-office,
his rheumatism being bad ; so he got in and soon
begun to talk about the proclamation. You know
152 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
him, Mr. Steele, and can guess how he went on,
abusing the President and cabinet right and left.
Mr. Hickey is a pretty patient man, but he couldn't
stand that ; so when the old man went so far as to
swear at Lincoln he reined his horse up and says,
'Well, neighbor, I'll have to ask you to get out
here. My boys are in the army, and they think
every thing of Lincoln, and so do I. He's God's
man, and I wont hear him abused.' Old gentle-
man Dow was astonished, I tell you ; but he man-
aged to get out and hobble into Mr. Gray's yard,
and there he stood shaking his fist — poor man — as
we drove away."
Eenjie clapped his hands.
" Good for Mr. Hickey! " said he. "I'll write the
boys about that."
" Perhaps I'll be able to tell them the story be-
fore many weeks," was Miss Hancock's quiet re-
Esther turned toward her in surprise.
"You don't mean it, do you? Are you really in
earnest ? "
" Of course I am. Mrs. Lovejoy and I hope to
go in the spring, sure."
"Who is Mrs. Lovejoy? " and " Haven't you got
enough to do here ? " and " We really can't let you
go," came in the same breath from the family.
" Mr. Steele, you must know Isaac Lovejoy ; he
died late in the fall. Well, it's his widow. She
was a school-teacher, and a good deal younger than'
Isaac," replied Miss Hancock.
" Yes, O, yes! I knew Isaac. We was young to-
gether; but he bought a farm in Jeffers. Made
THE EMANCIPA TIOM PROCLAMA TION. 153
money too, they say. Left a good property, didn't
he ? "
" Yes, he left all he had," said Miss Hancock,
Mr. Steele smiled.
" I've understood he was tight's the bark to a
"Why, Mr. Steele, that's no comparison. The
bark of a tree gives a chance for growth inside,
doesn't it ? Well, his soul never had any chance
" Why, why, I guess you didn't admire Isaac
much; church member, wasn't he? Think he's gone
to heaven, don't you?" asked Mr. Steele, a little
dismayed by her earnestness.
Again for an instant Miss Hancock held her
shears poised as she replied :
" Perhaps he did, but I can't help thinking he's a
pretty small pattern for an angel;" and then, aware
that she had shocked her good friends, she pro-
ceeded calmly, " I was there a good deal, making
his clothes — he always got half a yard of cloth less
than I told him to — and he grew smaller and
smaller spiritually every year. If his suits had only
been made for that part of him he could have
scrimped half a yard without the least danger. He
had the young doctor a few times because he was
a homeopathist, and Isaac thought he wouldn't
charge much for his medicine. One day he asked
the doctor for his bill, and how he raged when he
found he charged fifty cents a visit, same as old
Dr. Snow ! ' Don't you get the water out of my
well? and do you think I'll pay you for it?' says
154 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
he. So he changed again, for he said when he paid
for medicine he wanted it bitter enough to bring
him up on his toes. Well, poor man, he's gone
now, and the farm and stock and money in the
banks fall to his wife. She says she wants to
leave it all for a while and go down and help nurse
the soldiers. O, she's pure gold — tried in the fire
— and money in her hands will be used for the
good of mankind. Yes, it will."
Miss Hancock had allowed her tongue unusual
freedom, for in it was the " law of kindness ; " but,
as she was wont to say, she had " no patience with
In Mr. Steele's family she found a sympathy and
appreciation lacking elsewhere for her pet theo-
ries, but checked herself like a wise woman even
while the spice of gossip was most tempting, much
to Benjie's disappointment.
" Let the dead rest in peace," said she ; " let us
hope blessings came to Isaac as they did to his
wife when he went. At any rate, she has the
money now, and we are going together where it
will help the poor suffering boys."
And so again the conversation turned into the
usual channel as her future prospects were can-
" One good thing about your going is that prob-
ably you wont have to stay long," said Mr. Steele,
confidently ; " for I do think the rebellion must
yield, now the cause is removed. And it's good to
believe that the nations of the earth '11 stand by
"it's a telegram; prob'ly somebody's killed.
A FALLEN LLERO. 155
A FALLEN HERO.
A BOY came riding into the village one even-
ing early in April, his horse bespattered with
mud ; and, drawing rein before the post-office, in-
quired for Judge Plumley. Mr. Barstow hurried to
the door to ask, " What's the news? "
" Don't know," replied the messenger. " It's a
telegram; prob'ly somebody's killed;" and he
urged his tired horse up the street toward the
judge's pleasant home.
Within an hour the news had passed from lip
to lip that Captain Plumley, of the cavalry, had
been shot and instantly killed ! He had been one
of the first to enlist from Gilead in '61, and had
been promoted from a private's position on account
of his bravery. Other soldiers who were well known
all through that region had fallen among the early
recruits; they had fallen at Lee's Mills and Will-
iamsburg, at Golden's Farm, Savage Station, and
White Oak Creek, and others had died in hospitals ;
but Charlie Plumley was the first taken from the
heart of the town. Every body had known and
respected him and watched with commendable
pride his career in the army. And now he was
gone ! The curtains of his old home were lowered,
crape fluttered from the door-knob, his father
156 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
bowed his head in speechless sorrow, and his moth-
er sat in her darkened room, empty-handed and
alone, mourning for her first-born. And the people
— undemonstrative by nature and habit- — passed to
and fro with sad faces and spoke in low tones of
their common loss. In the general eagerness to
hear the particulars, the first letter, written by a
comrade to Dr. Adams, was read in the post-office,
where men had so often gathered with anxious
faces to listen to news from the front. The young
doctor sat upon a box and leaned his head upon
his hand, almost overcome by what was to him no
common grief, while he read as follows:
" Captain Plumley came along past our tent about
one in the morning of the first day of April and
wanted all who had horses good for any thing to
mount up as soon as possible, for they were going
to catch Mosby. That was just what we wanted to
do, and we were soon ready and on our way. They
had left Drainsville and stopped at a plantation a few
miles from there, where we found them about seven
" Captain Plumley took the lead with his com-
pany, and I was one in the front set of fours, and
therefore received their first fire, which came unex-
pectedly to us all. We expected to surprise them,
but found them mounted and ready to receive us.
In the first fire Captain Plumley fell on my left
with six balls through his body. They did not hit
me that fire. They charged again, and some of the
horses began to rear and pitch every way, and
either with or without help to wheel around and
run. Most of us who stood our ground were either
A FALLEN HERO. 157
killed or wounded. A rebel rode up toward me
and we commenced firing at each other. He hit
me twice, the first ball passing through my leg, and
as the second passed through my thigh, I rolled off
my horse without much exertion on my part, I as-
sure you. As soon as I could I raised my head on
my hand to see what was going on in other parts
of the field. Every horse was turned and running
for the woods. I then looked the other way and
saw our good captain lying upon his face. I worked
myself along to him and got there just as a rebel
came to take his arms and mine. I asked him to
help me turn him over on his back, which he did.
He did not speak after I got to him. I held his
head while he breathed his last, then laid a rail
under it and made my way to a house which was a
few rods off."
The doctor paused, his voice shaken with emo-
tion. After a moment's silence he said, " That is all.
We know how he lived ; this tells how he died."
Very quietly the little company dispersed, asking
themselves, " Who will be the next to fall ?"
A few days later the body of the brave captain
was returned to the old home, and the day fol-
lowing — a bright, clear spring day — his funeral was
held in the brown church. Such gatherings were
not rare in the early part of the war, but, alas ! there
came a time when the dead heroes were buried far
away from their kindred dust. It was a quiet crowd
of mourners that came together, filling the pews,
the aisles, the gallery, and the vestibule, many
wearing tokens of bereavement, many who could
sympathize with the stricken family.
158 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
Within the altar was the casket containing the
young captain's body. Upon it lay his cavalry hat,
sword, and gloves, while over the lower part was
thrown the flag for which he had died. The old pas-
tor slowly ascended the pulpit-stairs accompanied
by Mr. Phelps, the pastor of the other church. The
music of the opening hymn filled the house, hushing
the already subdued audience, and precious words of
consolation from God's word were read. Then the
young minister, with uplifted hand, said, "Let us
pray." An instant's pause, and then came the words,
" O, thou God of battles, thou Saviour of suffering
humanity, draw very near us to-day." Thus far, and
his voice failed, breaking into an irrepressible sob
as he bowed his head upon the Bible. A wave of
emotion passed through the audience, to which
every heart seemed to respond. For a moment
hard-faced men wept like children, and women
sobbed aloud. All the days and nights of watching
and waiting, all the hopes and fears and bereave-
ments of the past and the dreaded uncertainties of
the future, as connected with those perilous times,
seemed condensed in that brief and bitter experi-
And yet there was in it an element of almost
sacred tenderness which cannot be described. But
this scene was only for a moment. Then again the
voice of prayer was heard, gradually leading the
congregation to the Source of comfort and strength.
And this was the hour when Mr. Phelps began to
understand fully the meaning of the " great con-
test." As he listened to the old pastor's touching
remarks his soul, melted into self-forgetfulness as
A FALLEN HERO. 159
never before, took upon itself a little of that burden
which has rested and must ever rest upon those
who help rid the world of evil.
After the sad service was over a large part of the
audience accompanied the friends to the grave-yard
a half mile distant. Immediately following the
hearse walked a young negro leading the captain's
horse, with empty saddle in place, ready for the
swift rider whose last charge had been made. The
negro was a " contraband " who had found his way
into camp and attached himself uninvited to the
captain's service, making himself useful and finally
indispensable. His tears that day fell freely, and he
said, over and over,
" I'se los' my good friend."
And this was the "home-coming" of one of the
"boys." Under the notice of his death which Miss
Hancock placed in her quaint scrap-book she pasted
this little clipping:
" In the city, in the village,
In the hamlet far away,
Sit the mothers, watching, waiting,
For their soldier-boys to-day.
They are coming, daily coming.
One by one and score by score,
In their leaden casings folded,
Underneath the flag they bore."
"I almost envied Charlie to-day," said Abram, as
Esther came to her favorite chair beside his desk
after the excitement of the day was over.
" O, no, don't say that!" and Esther looked at
him sadly, for to her there had been nothing so ap-
parent as the universal distress over what seemed a
160 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" But he will always be counted with martyrs and
heroes. And isn't it better to do something and
die than to live and live until you forget how to en-
joy or suffer?"
" Abram Steele ! " said Esther, earnestly, " you
talk as though you had outlived your usefulness. It
isn't like you to say such things. If he went to war
because it was his duty, and you stay here because
it is your duty, what's the difference?"
"That's the way I argue myself," said Abram,
with a smile; "but I tell you, Esther, there's noth-
ing harder than to live day after day and rejoice in
doing what you don't like to do. There ! I've said
it, and now I feel better. Generally I can be satis-
fied, because nobody likes to shirk his duty ; but
sometimes, like to-day, I feel actually leg-weary try-
ing to be good. I'm like a baby crying when no-
body knows what it wants. And there was Charlie
— he fought, gathered all the struggle into a few
minutes, and there he lay with a smile on his face
like a conqueror."
Esther's face glowed with sympathy for her de-
" I know something about it, Abram. You will
laugh, but it seems like a waking-up pain. You
know when your foot is asleep it aches and tingles
when it wakes up. I was telling Miss Hancock
about it, and she understood and felt that way her-
self. She said it was because of the war. I suppose
she has a chance to forget it now she's got to work.
Did I tell you ? Mrs. Phelps has had a letter, and
they're in Washington, expecting to be sent to the
front in a few days. I could have read it, but Mrs.
A FALLEN HERO. 161
Fletcher has it. Miss Hancock seems perfectly-
happy and well, Mrs. Phelps says."
" By the way, how did Mrs. Phelps seem to feel
about her husband's breaking down so in the
prayer?" asked Abram.
" I don't think he broke down. Why, Abram,
I think — well, I'm so glad he could ; and I really
believe that's what made her look so exalted after
" O, I was glad, too ; but a few months ago
Brother Phelps would have felt himself disgraced
forever. He has changed wonderfully of late. It
began with his Thanksgiving sermon, I think.
Somebody was saying to-day that Elder Putnam's
mantle must have fallen upon him."
" It's good to think so," said Esther, heartily.
" How glad our boys must be to have Mr. Putnam
for their chaplain at last ! "
"Ah! did that news come in Don's letter?"
Esther glanced warningly toward the rest of the
family gathered around the long table.
" Yes. He said they had got him at last, and he
was doing the soldiers ever so much good. But,
Abram, you mustn't laugh at me. He doesn't
write — they're just friendly letters. Of course as
long as the Guards stay in camp they have lots of
spare time. Probably after they're sent to the
Abram laughed, for Esther's face had been grow-
ing rosier with every word, and he interrupted her.
" O, yes, he will. He will write just the same. I
only wish mother could be persuaded that he is all
right and have a little sympathy for Mrs. Stanley."
162 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" But, Abram," said Esther, anxious to change
the subject, " seems to me you needn't talk about
other people writing. Somebody must get volumes
from you. I believe it's your postage that keeps
you feeling so poor these days."
For answer Abram handed his sister an agricult-
ural paper, pointing to an article.
" Read that," said he.
" O, you want me to keep still now. I never read
any thing in this paper but the stories and the
Nevertheless she read " A Plea for Shrubbery and
Shade-trees," and a something in its construction,
a something which reveals the personality of an au-
thor, made her turn to Abram with a look of de-
"Why, you wrote it yourself! It sounds just
like you. Who told you to? When did you begin ?
Do they pay you for it ? "
Abram laughed as he had not for weeks. It
seemed so pleasant to tell his one little comfortable
" O, I began some time ago, first for the Stand-
ard. Then King advised me to try this paper, and
they pay — not very much, but enough to satisfy me
for the present."
Esther drew a long breath.
" Isn't it grand to be a man and have so many
ways to earn money ! I believe you're bound to be
rich sometime. And, Abram, I've a good mind to
tell you what I've been thinking of. Do you think
I could teach school this coming summer? Mary
is all the help mother will need, and of course she
A FALLEN HERO. 163
wont go to school herself — Mary has finished every-
thing they teach here — so I'm not really needed ;
and it would seem so good to earn something."
" Why, that's a splendid plan ; " and Abram
whirled around in his chair with sudden animation.
" Let's see. You're eighteen, and people know
you've had two terms in the academy at the Center.
Yes, I'm sure you could. Had you thought where
you'd like to teach? "
"Yes, in the 'mountain district.' There's Vic
Armstrong, you know, and that nice Mrs. Stubbs — "
" Yes, and Mrs. Stanley," added Abram, with a
smile. " I'll find out who the committee is and see
him right away."
Every dollar saved or earned meant much to
Abram, and, although he was willing to bear the bur-
den of debt alone, Esther's proposition seemed like
very tangible sympathy ; and they continued to dis-
cuss the subject with considerable enthusiasm. Mrs.
Steele glanced toward them occasionally, wondering
how they could have so soon forgotten the scenes
of the afternoon. They had not forgotten ; but
youth is strong and hopeful, and, in spite of tragic
news and heartaches and tears and new-made graves,
the spirit of those days was one of intense earnest-
ness and action.
164 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
BEFORE the "first Monday in June," which
was the orthodox beginning for a country
school in '63, Esther's certificate was lawfully se-
cured, and she was engaged to teach twelve weeks
in the mountain district. Mr. Stubbs, the commit-
tee, agreed to pay her one dollar and a half per
week, and she was to "board around." He did not
fail to remind her that most beginners got but a
dollar and a quarter, which inspired Esther with a
most heroic resolution to work very hard and prove
her right to such munificent wages. She was a
happy girl when on that first morning she entered
the trim little school-house with its newly washed
floor, its atmosphere fragrant with the odors of
spruce and maple-boughs which decorated the
walls, its seats occupied by twenty-four bright-
eyed boys and girls — most of them barefoot — who
bent upon her their silent scrutiny. She was sure
this "double jury" could see how her palpitating
heart interfered with the little opening speech she
had so carefully prepared, and laughed in its sleeves
over her awkwardness in " forming classes." Never
was a girl more willing to receive counsel than was
she, when, after the perplexities of the day were
over, she climbed the hill through the woods to Mr.
ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 165
Stubbs's, where she was to board the first week.
And he was glad to give it.
" I don't s'pose you could find a loyaler deestrict
in all Gilead than our'n," said he, as, minus coat
and collar, he tilted back in his chair on the " front
platform" after tea. "There's ten voters out of
nineteen gone a'ready ; and that leaves desp'rate few
men in case of a fire. And I don't s'pose there's an
easier managed school in all Gilead than our'n. If
you want to make the children think every thing of
you just learn 'em to sing these 'ere war songs. It
beats all how they can sing. That little Irene
Wells is a regular bobolink, and Florry and Flo-
rindy Gray aint fur behind. The master we had
last winter said he never see any thing like it in his
As Esther, listened her eyes feasted upon the
scene before her. The mountain district was a little
settlement made within a few years by clearing the
land at the foot of the mountain and up its sloping
sides, and building little houses here and there, sev-
eral of which were of logs ; so that while Esther was
only two miles from her father's farm she was virt-
ually in the "backwoods." Mr. Stubbs's house
was rather more pretentious than most of the
others, as it was painted white, and contained six
rooms ; but its attractiveness was, after all, due to
Mrs. Stubbs's care and neatness. She had a genius
for home-making and housekeeping, and no one
could step within the door without feeling it. Her
rooms were sweetly clean, even to the kitchen-floor,
made of white hard-wood, which the neighbors said
was so smooth that flies couldn't walk across it
166 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
without slipping down ! Every thing seemed to
know its place and stay there, from the almanac
on its nail under the clock to the patch-work
holder, which always hung close to the turkey's
wing with its red flannel shield, answering to the
modern dust-brush. Mrs. Stubbs was also a wonder-
" What kind of flour do you use, and where do
you get your spices?" her neighbors would ask,
viewing her puffy biscuits and fragrant tea-cakes
with jealous eyes.
" Same as you," she always replied, with a cheery
But her care-taking was by no means confined to
'the house. Her front yard was her pride and
delight. It was bounded on the south and west by
the roadway, with grass growing between the ruts,
on the east by a rhythmical brook, and on the
north by primitive forest, a part of which was Mr.
Stubbs's " wood-lot." When a clearing for the new
house was made Mrs. Stubbs had begged her hus-
band to leave a part of the stumps for her. The
tops of these she had excavated and filled with rich
soil, and all over them were now growing morn-
ing-glories and nasturtiums — she said " sturtions " —
and myrtle and creepers of all kinds, even to a lux-
uriant hop-vine, which climbed up a sort of liberty-
pole arrangement and threw its tendrils out to a
neighboring tree. On the side near the woods she
left tangles of blackberry-bushes and tall dogwood
shrubs, while a little farther along were dewberry-
vines, checker-berry, and bunch plums, with
all their original flavor. She took special pride,
ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 167
however, in her flower-beds on either side of the
path leading to the front door. These were' in
the form of circles and fat hearts ; and in them
flourished hollyhocks and bachelor's-buttons, tiger-
lilies, honeysuckles, marigolds, fly-catchers, peonies,
china-asters, and bunch pinks, which she called
" poor relations," because of their tendency to wan-
der in " by and forbidden ways," and appear sud-
denly where they were not wanted. But time fails
to mention all the dear old-fashioned flowers that
helped make up a display which was so natural and
wild in its setting that it seemed as if the seeds
must have been dropped from above by some lavish,
careless hand. We are aware that Mr. Stubbs and
Esther have been lost sight of in this flowery inter-
lude, but he has been talking all the while, and she
dutifully listening, even while her eyes caressed each
flower and bud and sturdy plant.
" Make 'em feel good where you go to board,"
said he. " Talk about the scholars as though they
was all bright as buttons. Makes parents feel good
when you praise their childern."
" What if they are really stupid and troublesome ? "
" That would be bad, of course ; but it never helps
matters none to tell them things. You can't please
'em unless you seem interested in their scholars, and
if you don't please 'em you can't do 'em any good."
" I'm afraid you're a little deceptive, father," said
Mrs. Stubbs, who, having finished her household
duties, had seated herself near them, knitting in
" We're all deceptive when we try to make things
108 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
better 'n they be, hey ? Stop rootin' 'round your old
stumps, then, tryin' to make b'lieve they're piles of
posies. Stop rootin', I tell you ; " and at his delight
in catching his wife in her own trap he laughed until
he nearly fell from his chair.
" I think you are very kind, Mr. Stubbs, to tell
me about the children and their parents," said
Esther. " I'm sure it will be a help to me. I
wasn't really acquainted with any one over here
except Mrs. Stanley and Vic Armstrong."
"Poor Mis' Stanley; she seems kind o' pinin'
since Donald went away, and no wonder. I know
how it is since my Theodore went. As for N'xztoxy
Armstrong, if she would go to work and make
something of herself while Joe's gone may be the
Lord would forgive her for the time she's wasted
so far;" and Mrs. Stubbs sighed deeply as she
narrowed off the thumb of the mitten she was
Esther was very glad to use Mr. Stubbs's hints in
managing her school. After the first week's drill,
she could, by a tap of the bell and giving the "key-
note," bring every child to an erect position and
start such a volume of melody on " Rally 'Round the
Flag, Boys," or "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys
are Marching," or old " America," as would make
the woods ring.
"You're very polite to let us sing so good," said
little Josephine Labrique, with her pretty French
accent, as she leaned against Esther's lap one
"You mean she's kind," corrected Irene Wells.
" Yes, and I love you, too," said Flora Durhurst.
ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 169
" I wrote my pa a letter last night, an' I told him
how you teached us ' Tramp, Tramp.' '
" Where is your father? " asked Esther.
Flora stopped eating her bread and butter and
looked at the teacher in blank amazement.
" He's in the war, of course ; 'way down before
Vicksburg, my pa is."
" My big brother's gone. He's down there, too,"
said Jasmine Ripley, a tall, slender girl, taller, in
fact, than her teacher.
" My father's been killed. I tell you 'taint very
nice to see your mother cryin' and think you can't
see your father any more; " and Ira Grover shook
his head soberly as he advanced to the desk.
Little Bub Spinner, who was Esther's " bad boy,"
came hopping forward at this instant and spoke
up loudly, " I guess they wont kill my Uncle
John. He's too big. We're going to send him a
box. He lives in a tent an' fires guns, but he wants
to go in a battle. I wish 't I could go in a battle.
My uncle wrote some poetry once, an* it was in the
paper. I say it sometimes when folks tease me to."
Bub had been in constant motion thus far, as
though his body was a little machine which had to
hop or swing itself at every sentence ; but now,
without any special " teasing," he assumed the per-
pendicular, brought his little toes together upon a
crack in the floor, jerked a funny bow toward Esther
and recited :
" "Tis of a noble lady that my story shall be told,
Who among our valiant soldiers was the boldest of the bold ;
How she plead and teased our colonel till he was forced to yield.
And let her share our dangers upon the tented field.
170 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
" For miles upon the dusty road she traveled all the way,
While many of the sterner sex were forced down to lay.
Here in her home of canvas, not over eight feet square,
She managed all so nicely they'd plenty room to spare.
"And when the order came to move, upon her noble steed,
With her husband 'midst the skirmishers Mrs. Selwyn took the lead.
Arrived in camp at Seneca, she had a palace made
Of bushes, and, although they leaked, served very well for shade.
" 'Twas here she met an accident that made her lame for life,
But she bore her troubles bravely, as became a soldier's wife ;
From Seneca to Grover on a stretcher she did ride,
Survived the awful sickness with which so many died."
Here Bub paused and bowed. " There's more
to it," said he, " but I aint got it yet. When I
do I'll speak it to you. It's all about a real live
woman ; my uncle knows her."
"Why, it's nice, isn't it, teacher?" said Jasmine,
who was fond of verses. " I'd write all the time if
I could do so well."
" Pooh ! " and Bub resumed his gymnastics.
" My Uncle John writes whole letters like that.
He don't mind. He don't care whether he makes
poetry or shoots rebs."
" A little boy with such an uncle ought to be a
splendid scholar, don't you think so ? " said Esther,
looking with new interest into the animated freckled
Bub returned the look with a conscious blush,
then with a wild whoop he sprang through the open
door-way, shouting, " Lil — lil ! " at which rallying-
cry every barefooted boy-patriot rushed out to join
in their favorite game. Esther was surprised that
her scholars knew so well the condition of the coun-
try. She had thought they liked the quick martial
ESTHER'S SCHOOL. 171
music of the "war songs" and their rattling cho-
ruses ; but after that day she was able to detect a
deeper appreciation in their voices, sustaining their
claim to a share of the honor of belonging to the
" loyalest deestrict in Gilead."
And that was a summer to test every body's loy-
alty. The first of July came the terrible battle of
Gettysburg, which filled the papers with heart-rend-
ing accounts and long, long lists of killed and
wounded. Then Vicksburg surrendered, and there
was a gleam of hope again. But a little later came
the first draft, followed by terrible resistance in
New York city, where riots, mobs, and bloodshed
filled the land with a new dread and made white
lips ask, " What next ? What next ? "
But the press and pulpit of the Green Mountain
State stood firm, and above the murmurs of the
faint-hearted and the false rose the faith and cour-
age of those who spoke to the people with author-
ity. The editors and ministers of those days are
passing away, but they belong to an unrecognized
" Grand Army " which fed the fires of loyalty at
home through many a dark and ominous peril.
The country seemed full of strange contradictions
that summer; for while battles were being fought
and men were dying in hospitals the rural districts
of the North were being invaded by pleasure-seekers
as never before. Up among the White Mountains,
along the Vermont lakes, and in quiet little villages
were seen crowds of those who had money from the
soldier-boys or who had coined their gold out of
the great necessities of the hour. Speculation was
rife and dishonest men in their glory ; and the sol-
172 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
dier boys received blankets and clothing among
other things bearing witness to this. It was
"shoddy" sometimes in those days, and from the
vast wealth resulting arose "shoddy aristocracy!"
Even Gilead saw some of it during a few weeks
of unusual splendor. But still the children sang in
the quiet shadow of old Bear Mountain :
" Rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting the battle-cry of freedom ! "
VICTORIA VICTRIX. 173
ESTHER'S school duties did not prevent fre-
quent calls upon Mrs. Stanley and Vic Arm-
strong. Mrs. Stanley always greeted her with a cor-
diality which would have surprised those who only
saw the gentle widow at church. " My dear child ! "
was her usual greeting ; and then Esther would kiss
the soft thin cheek with the " tips of her lips " and
be ushered with quaint ceremony into the tiny
" best room."
No matter where Esther looked during these visits,
she always saw something to remind her of Don,
from the case of handsome books in the parlor to
his coat and hat hanging in the little entry through
which she always passed. At all these reminders
she glanced with shy reverence, when she thought
herself unobserved, although we must confess that
in leaving the house she usually gave the old coat
a loving touch when she was quite, quite alone,
then hastened away with blushing cheeks and pal-
pitating heart. Not a word passed between the
two respecting Don's letters, however, which any
stranger might not have heard ; but there was a
tacit understanding which made the calls very com-
forting to both. One night in August Esther had
carried an offering of delicious blackberries, deco-
17 i THE GILEAD GUARDS.
rated with green leaves and vines ; and after enjoy-
ing a few moments' chat reluctantly turned toward
Joe Armstrong's little home impelled by sundry
messages which Vic had been sending by the neigh-
" Vic is so discouraged I don't know what to say
to her," she had said to the widow.
" Perhaps you are the very one to help her out of
her selfishness and sloth," was the gentle reply ;
and the thought followed Esther as she climbed
the slope beyond. She found Victoria sitting in
the door-way in an untidy dress, her pretty hair
uncombed, engaged in reading a story-paper, while
baby Nellie was playing in the dirt with some new
tin pans commonly used for milk.
" O, Vic!" cried Esther, without waiting to greet
her, " do see what the baby is doing. She will spoil
Vic looked up languidly.
"O, it's you, Esther, at last! Don't mind the
baby ; she wont do no hurt. I let her have
every thing to keep her quiet ; " and scrambling
to her feet she brought a rocking-chair to the
" I'd ask you to go in, but it looks worse in the
house than it does out here — "
" I'd rather sit here, it is so cool and pleasant un-
der this big tree ; " and Esther removed her
broad-brimmed hat, looking around with new in-
" You might make this yard real pretty, Vic, if
you would try," said she. " Mrs. Stubbs has made
hers beautiful with all sorts of vines and flowers.
VICTORIA VICTRIX. 175
You ought to see it now, while her dahlias are in
" O, my gracious! " said Vic, scornfully. "I'd
like to know who cares whether my yard looks nice
or not. I aint going to stay here anyway, Esther.
If Joe can leave me to go to war I guess I can live
where I please, and I'm going to take Joe's pay
and board in the village with Aunt Maria. I'll buy
some nice new dresses and have 'em made like those
in the fashion-plates. Lawyer Ellis says it's a
shame for me to bury myself over here in the
woods when I might be having good times in the
Esther dared not speak for a moment, she was so
startled by the words of her foolish friend. She
felt like catching hold of her with both hands to
save her from some impending peril, but dared not
betray her anxiety. Instead she said lightly, " He
has no right to give advice until he is asked. Think
how Joe loves this little home, and how hard he
worked for it. Every body says it will be such a
nice place when it's all cleared and paid for."
" It aint going to be paid for, because I want the
money ; and the farm may go to rack and ruin for
all I care;" and Vic folded her dimpled arms
" I know what I would do, Victoria, if I were in
your place," continued Esther. "I would never,
never sell my pretty house, but I would pay up the
debt with Joe's wages, and then fix up the house
with new paint and paper, and make a rag-carpet
for the sitting-room, and some rugs for the kitchen,
and cover the big rocking-chair with new copper-
176 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
plate, and hang some new white curtains at the
windows. Then I would buy a few pretty dresses
and have them made good and strong, Vic " — and
both looked at the rips in the one she was wearing
with a smile — "and then every afternoon I would
put one of them on and comb my beautiful hair
and coil it up just as I would want it to look if Joe
should happen to come up the path."
" O, O, O, don't say any more ! " sobbed Yic, sud-
denly turning and burying her face in Esther's lap.
"I know I'm all wrong, and I'm just as miserable
and lonesome as I can be ; and I thought I would
try to do better, but I get to reading, and my bread
sours and my cream molds and my butter aint fit to
eat, and Frank's mad because he don't have good
victuals, and says he wont carry on the farm, and I
don't know what to do."
Esther smoothed the tangled hair, and little
Nellie came toddling up to lay her head beside her
mamma's and pat her cheek with a very hot, dirty
" Well, I wouldn't give up, Vic," said Esther,
half crying herself. " You know Joe and all the
rest have gone to war, not because they wanted to
leave home, but to save the country; and it seems
to me we that stay here ought to do our very best,
so that when they come back they will find every
thing ready for them. And, Vic, I wish you would
stop reading those silly love-stories. For Joe's sake
don't you think you could, dear ? "
" O, I don't know," sighed Vic, wearily. "When
mother died last winter she tried to make me prom-
ise to, but seems to me I can't. When I get to
VICTORIA VICTRIX. 177
reading one of them Ledger stories I can't stop ; but
when I do stop there's so many things that ought
to be done I don't know where to begin."
" Well, I would begin," said Esther, firmly ; " and
the first thing I'd make a big bonfire of the old
papers and never let any more come into the
"All my old papers that I've saved up-stairs?"
aske 1 Vic, reproachfully.
" Yes, every one, unless you're anxious to keep
them for Nellie, to read by and by."
" O, no, I don't want Nellie to read 'em. I want
her to learn to work and do things in season, too.
She must be a scholar ; that's what papa Joe says ; "
and Vic seized the dirty baby, kissing her sweet,
sticky mouth again and again. And so, over the
baby the two girls wiped their eyes and silently
resolved, the one to reform, the other to " lend a
hand " while the work was being done. Vic pushed
away the wavy tangles from her flushed forehead
and swollen eyes and looked up.
" Esther," said she, " tell me what you would do
first if you was in my place — really in my place, you
" I would comb my hair, wash baby's face, and
give her some supper. Then I would — burn —
those — papers;" and Esther, amazed at her own
boldness, kissed Vic tenderly and hurried down the
hill toward her boarding-place.
A few rods from the house she discovered Frank
Shaw, sitting on a big rock by the roadside trying to
coax music from an old flute. He looked nearly as
discouraged as had Victoria ; and, guessing that he
178 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
had left his sister after a quarrel, but hardly cared
to go home, she stopped and asked him if he were
learning to play.
"Can't make much music out of this old thing,"
replied Frank. " I did think I'd buy a new one
when Joe paid me next time, but I've quit work to-
"Now, Frank," said Esther, earnestly, "you
mustn't leave Vic. I've just been having a long
talk with her, and she's feeling better. You must
remember how much Joe thinks of her and how he
petted her, and be patient."
"Well, I have been patient, Miss Steele, but a
feller can't live on bread and milk all the time, es-
pecially when the bread is sour and hard. I took
the hammer and chisel to the table to break it with
this noon, and that's what begun the fuss."
"I don't believe the bread will be that way any
more, Frank, really. And then, again, it wouldn't
be fair to leave Vic while Joe's off fighting for the
country. Joe and your brother '11 be home one of
these days, and you don't want them to find that
the ' home guards ' haven't done their duty."
Frank drew a long breath.
" I know," said he. " I didn't forget that, either;
but Vic's been a trial. I don't wonder Joe was
ready to go to war after eating her bread a couple
of years. I'd want to get shot if I was him."
"But you'll go back and try it once more, wont
you, Frank ? " asked Esther, with an encouraging
"O, I s'pose so. I think lots of little Nellie;"
VICTORIA VICTRIX. 179
and Frank polished the old flute diligently to con-
ceal a deeper feeling than he cared to exhibit.
" All right, then ; " and Esther left him, feeling
sure that if her friend would do right Frank was
pledged to " bear and forbear " a little longer.
And that Victoria was moved by some new im-
pulse became evident as soon as Esther disappeared
around the foot of the slope, for she ran up-stairs
into the little room where lay piles of papers and
old books in confused heaps upon the floor. Seiz-
ing an armful she descended and soon had them
blazing in the kitchen stove. Again and again she
filled the stove, regardless of consequences, while
the baby clapped her hands and laughed. Victoria
continued this cremation until she reached the last
serial, " The Bride of the Magic Cave," bound to-
gether and tied securely. This was peculiarly fas-
cinating and terrible ; but the thought that Nellie
might sometime read it sealed its doom, and it
was soon rolling up the chimney in a volume
of smoke. It was no wonder that Frank, slowly
returning to the house, hastened his footsteps
as he saw smoke mingled with sparks flying up-
" What under the sun you doing now, Vic? " he
cried, rushing into the kitchen, seizing a pail of
water, and climbing to the roof with the utmost
speed. "There now, Vic," said he, as he met her
in the chamber bringing another pail of water,
" next time you set the house afire give me a little
notice, so I can get my clothes out."
" It didn't really get afire, did it?" asked his sis-
ter, with pallid lips.
180 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" Course it did. Burned out the soot and scorched
quite a place in the roof."
" Well, you see, Frank, I've been burning my old
story-papers and books," said Vic.
" Je-ru-sa-lem ! I don't wonder they made a hot
blaze. Kind of flavored with brimstone, you know.
May be I better take up another pail of water under
Vic would have been angry ordinarily, but now
she only smiled pitifully, trembling, too, as she
thought, now the danger was over, how she would
have felt if the little house had burned. With a
feeling of genuine shame, such as she had never be-
fore experienced, our delinquent housekeeper col-
lected a few fragments of former feasts for their late
supper ; but with a clean cloth on the table, a clean-
faced baby beside her, and Frank graciously endeav-
ing to cut his bread with a knife just opposite, Vic
felt that she had really made a beginning. The
very next morning, with deep humiliation and many
misgivings, she took little Nellie and made her way
to Mrs. Stubbs's kitchen. The result of her visit
that worthy woman rehearsed to Esther at the first
" The day of miracles aint over," said she, with
beaming countenance. " Victory Armstrong wants
to learn how to make good bread. And she's in
earnest, too. She wrote it all down on paper, and
I'm going to give her yeast every week. She's a
pretty girl^ Victory is, and she looked so humble
and sorry I couldn't help kissing her. Dretful curi-
ous she was about my posies, too, and asked ques-
tions about this thing and that, in doors and out,
VICTORIA VICTRIX. 181
till I made up my mind she'd had a dream or a vis-
ion or something like what come to Saul of Tarsus.
Something's woke her up, any way, and I kind of
asked the Lord to help me give just the advice she
needed, bein' her mother's dead. I felt fairly beat out
with surprise and astonishment after I see her off with
a loaf of my bread and a couple of pies for a sample,
for, as I said to Mr. Stubbs, I'd as soon expect one
o' them robins out there to hop in and ask for
knitting-work as I would to have Victory Armstrong
come into my kitchen to have me learn her to make
182 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID."
BEFORE the close of '63 the loyal women of
Gilead organized a " Soldiers' Aid Society."
The "Christian Commission" was carrying on its
splendidly organized and equipped work for the
soldiers, and hundreds of aid societies were in active
operation long before this, but, as we have intimated,
our little rural town moved slowly. Boxes had
been sent to their own "boys" — many of them —
but a conviction was growing that something more
was essential ; so when a notice was read in the
two churches one Sunday late in the fall, calling
for a meeting of all the " willing-hearted " on the
next Thursday afternoon, it met general approval.
" O, if Miss Hancock were only here to tell us
what to do! " said one and another when the time
for the meeting arrived.
" Think of the good she is doing where she is,"
replied Mrs. Fletcher. " The dear soul writes that
she is nurse and mother, too, in her ward — writing
letters, telling stories, listening to family histories,
and sometimes just crying and praying while some
poor fellow's tortured soul is set free. The doctors
tell her she'll have to come home in the spring to
recruit, for she's not one to stay more than a year in
such a trying place."
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 183
Not much machinery was required for a society
which had but one object, and that was soon set in
motion. Mrs. Plumley, elected president with very
little formality, took her place beside the large table
opened to its full size in her own parlor and looked
into the faces of the women around her. Her black
dress with its simple crape trimmings, her face
with its indescribable expression of mingled sorrow
and heroic endurance, helped emphasize her appeal.
" I have nothing to urge upon you, dear sisters,"
said she, " because we are only taking our share of
the responsibility resting upon all women to-day.
A long, cold winter is upon us. We have seen
some -victories, and we believe General Grant is the
leader we have been waiting for ; but Lincoln calls
for ' three hundred thousand more ; ' so it is evident
that our President doesn't think the war will close
in the spring, as we had hoped. Our own Guards
are fretting still in Washington, longing for action,
and perhaps we feel that they are comparatively safe ;
but we don't know how many of them may be in
hospital before spring; at any rate somebody's sons
will be there — hundreds of them — dependent for
comfort upon supplies sent from the North. I felt
sure you wouldn't feel satisfied with simply organ-
izing to-day — time is too precious; so I bought a
web of cotton-cloth and collected some old sheets,
that we might begin our work at once."
A murmur of approval followed these remarks,
and while the cloth was brought in and put upon
the table thimbles and needles made their appear-
ance, and in an incredibly short space of time sheets,
pillow slips, and shirts were in process of manufact-
184 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
ure, while old linen was being carefully prepared
for bandages or scraped into snowy piles of lint.
Sewing-machines were very rare in Gilead, but Mrs.
Plumley had one of the few, and it was devoted to the
use of the " Soldiers' Aid " from that hour, although
some of the ladies had an old-fashioned notion that
every thing sent to "the boys" ought to be "hand-
made." As they wrought with nervous energy it
was good to see how one absorbing interest was
bringing them together. Like many small country
towns, Gilead had its " distinctions." A social
philosopher might well smile over such very, very
small orbital differences, but to the "orbs" they
were by no means imaginary. They existed be-
tween the churches, and also to some extent be-
tween those living "out of" and "in" the vil-
lage. The brown church was supposed to be more
aristocratic than its neighbor across the green.
It had come to town first. It had the bell, also
red cushions in its pews, carpeted aisles and grass-
cloth curtains at its windows. The white church
had none of these luxuries. More of the village
people attended the brown church, and " this,
that, and the other " were all weighed in invis-
ible scales, and people who felt the tipping of
one side or the other governed themselves accord-
ingly. But this afternoon Mrs. Green, the mer-
chant's wife, measured pillow-slips with Mrs. Rollins,
who was as aggressive and acrimonious as ever, but
" of course she must help as long as her boy was
Mrs. Hickey, in a figured calico dress, sat quite at
her ease with Mrs. Akers, the cashier's wife, sewing
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 185
"over and over" at opposite ends of the same
sheet, while Mrs. Smith from her mountain eyrie
gave Mrs. Allen, wife of the "richest man in town,"
her rule for preserving sweet flag-root in sugar,
recommending it highly for her husband's " heart-
O, it is good to remember that through common
sorrow the hearts of home-workers were brought
very near together! And of course these women
talked as fast as they sewed. A poor " skedaddler,"
as deserters were called, had been caught in a barn
near the village and promptly delivered to the
proper authorities a few days before. Over his case
there was a difference of opinion, some of the
ladies pitying the coward who had been so near
Canada and failed to reach it, while others declared
they were glad he was caught, and wished they
might have his fate to decide ! Among the last
mentioned was Martha Thompson, whose unyield-
ing attitude as she sat scraping lint was suggestive
of nothing less than the courage and fortitude of a
" The fact is," said she, " this is a sort of high-
way for all the scalawags in New Hampshire and
Massachusetts who want to run to Canada. Let a
few of 'em get caught, I say. Let 'em smell gun-
powder, and take their chance with better men."
In the midst of conversation the loud-voiced
stage -bells were heard, and the big covered
sleigh, with its two sweating horses, their mouths
frost-covered, dashed past, drawing up with a flour-
ish in front of the post-office. So many ladies were
expecting " war letters" — they were always expect-
186 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
ing them in those days — that a messenger was
sent over, and very soon they were brought in and
distributed. Can any of my readers remember the
gay, patriotic envelopes used by the soldiers and
their friends? In the corner opposite the stamp
were designs — eagles, flags, shields, cannons, and
swords, or perhaps the portraits of Union generals.
Lincoln's face was often seen, sometimes Lincoln's
and Washington's together, surrounded by a wreath
of laurel. Gayly colored were many of these de-
signs, and the paper corresponded, often being bor-
dered or barred with red, white, and blue lines.
Yes, the very mail-bags were laden with patriotism
in those days ! Scraps of the letters were read
aloud, among others a part of John Henry Hickey's,
our young friend having won quite a reputation as
a spicy writer.
"Thanks to Corporal Rollins," he wrote, "while
you folks at home were feasting on turkey and
plum-pudding, not to mention other superfluous
goodies, we also ate our turkey. The proud bird
was reheated by our tent cook, and we gathered
around it trying not to notice the absence of side
dishes. O, but it was good, mother! and for once
we were glad we were not on the 'tented field,'
but still here at old Fortress Monroe. We ate
every thing but the bones, drawing lots for the wish-
bone, which is pinned to my tent just above my
head. Then we finished the birthday cake you
sent, and were ready to sing. We tried ' Home,
Sweet Home,' but some of the boys grew suddenly
hoarse, so we struck up ' '65's the Jubilee for the
Darkies Ebery-where,' which went with a vim.
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 187
George and I and the other Gilead boys are well,
and would like to see some new recruits down here.
Tell our fellow-citizens of the Green Mountain
peaks if I was up there and wanted to come down
here pretty bad, and had nothing to hinder, I would
the first thing gather myself together and come, all
in one solemn column, to the tune of ' Soldier's
Joy,' common time, rout step, double quick, marcJi !
The weather here varies, days usually quite warm,
while some nights are cold enough to freeze the ears
off a stone image."
" There, now, I guess I wont read any more,"
laughed Mrs. Hickey as she wiped her eyes. " John
Henry gets extravagant sometimes."
The ladies had a plain early tea, after which the
village girls and men, young and old, came, drawn
together by a bond of common interest. The Bos-
ton Daily was brought in, and the Standard, truest
and stanchest of all, damp from the press. News
from the front was read aloud, and army leaders
criticised or commended as usual. Doubts were
expressed as to the possibility of raising " three
hundred thousand more," for, judging the nation by
Gilead, they said, " Who is there to go? "
Among other gleanings we find one worthy of
special preservation, which Dr. Adams read from
the Standard, from which it is literally copied :
" A gentleman from Massachusetts went to New-
berne, when General Wilde went down to raise
negro troops. He went out into the country with
a friend, visited a lot of black men who were cutting
timber for government, and made them a speech,
telling them that they were to be called on to enlist,
188 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
and urging them to do their duty for their country.
As a result the next morning, before the recruiting
office could be opened, a black man with one hun-
dred men — the gang of government wood-cutters —
came to enlist. When the Massachusetts man was
coming away he espied a black woman trying to get
past a line of guards to him. He assisted her and
a colored minister to do so, when she approached
him and handed him a brown paper parcel that jin-
gled, explaining that it was money that had been
subscribed by colored women of Newberne to buy a
standard of colors for the first regiment of North
Carolina volunteers. It was one hundred dollars,
she said, and they wanted a first-rate one.
" ' But you will need the money; you had better
keep it — the government will provide the colors,'
said the gentleman.
" But this so distressed the woman and the minis-
ter that he took the money, made up mostly of
silver three-cent pieces, half dimes, and dimes, from
the scanty earnings of the slaves, and said :
" ' Madam, you shall have the very handsomest
flag that the city of Boston can supply.'
" With the money was the subscription paper, the
first gotten up by slave women in the United States
for such a purpose. It was written by ' Marian, a
Cook,' and is as follows :
" ' Sob-scription list. Ladays old and young, one
and all, I call on you in this time of our great
Struggle for Liberty. We a Potion of us do intend
to go forward and try and Collect Money enough to
Purchase a decent flag for our Colard Solgers and
Jcntlemen, for it is for our good and the good of
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 1S9
our Daughters that our husbands and Sons do
in-List to fight our Battles and gain our Libatys
therefore there Remans a work for us to do and
Let us rise and do our parte Cheerfully Please
give me Something to aid us in this matter.'
" Signed, ' Marian Hargit and others.' "
This little account of self-denial was quite in line
with public sentiment.
"Real common sense, I call it," said Esquire
Fletcher ; " shows that they're just such folks as we
King, the editor of the Standard, had just en-
tered in time to catch the last remark and its appli-
" If they don't fight well under that flag they
deserve to be shot. But they will. They're men,
and government itself can't make them 'contra-
bands.' I expect to see grand work done by colored
troops yet," said he.
" You've got great faith in niggers, King, but I
tell you they'll run ! they'll run ! I went down
South myself when I was a young man, and I tell
you they're cowards, these niggers;" and Mr. Green,
who was a well-known " copper-head," edged his
way through the crowd toward the table where the
editor was standing. This latter individual, who
was literally " boiling over with patriotism," cleared
his throat and prepared to reply; but Mrs. Plumley
quietly arose and happened to place herself with
an armful of half-completed garments between the
" I feel like shaking hands with ' Marian Hargit
and others,' " said she, with a smile. " I think our
190 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
new society will adopt her language and say,
' Therefore there remains a work for us to do.'
And we will begin by asking Mr. Green to ' Please
give us something to aid us.' "
But by the time she had emptied her arms and
turned toward him with outstretched hand he had
retreated in good order ; for if there was any thing
his soul hated it was a "collection." Neverthe-
less, it was taken with much quiet laughter, and
several cutting remarks reflecting upon his bravery
as compared with that of his colored brethren.
" But we ought to be doing more, I think," said
lively Nellie Lucas, one of the village teachers.
" Miss Sawyer says they have had a soldiers' fair
in Bucksbury and raised over a hundred dollars.
She had a long letter from her cousin telling all
Miss Sawyer, a red-cheeked, modest little lady,
came forward after much persuasion and read the
description referred to, which was followed by an
eager discussion of grab-bags, fish-ponds, Jacob's-
wells, post-offices, etc., a part of the devices used
in securing funds in that time of national need.
Figuratively speaking, Gilead clapped its hands
over the prospect. Here was an opportunity to do
good, to have " lots of fun," and, if possible, to
outdo Bucksbury all at once! Committees were
appointed that very evening to take charge of this
great undertaking, and several weeks of the dull
" snow-bound " winter were enlivened by prepara-
tions for it.
Girls who had been accustomed to sit under
buffalo robes while fathers and brothers drove
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 101
now went dashing along the country roads, their
hands in thick yarn mittens, their faces rosy and
resolute, as they held the reins and dispatched
business with a new courage born of necessity.
The news of the great sanitary fair of the North-
west, with its receipts reaching nearly one hundred
thousand dollars, had run across the nation like
wild-fire. The papers were full of it, and it was
the model and guide for city and country. As our
Gilead friends talked and read they began to realize
something of the tremendous efforts that were being
made in the heart of the country. Their first plan
broadened. They would have singing and reciting of
patriotic pieces, tableaus, and charades. They would
beg donations of precious things to sell at enormous
profits. They would hire a brass band ! And so it
came to pass that Gilead's fair was larger and longer
and more magnificent in every respect than Bucks-
bury had ever dreamed of! It was held on Christ-
mas week, and the people came from far and near
for three consecutive evenings. Ruby Fletcher
was there to play and sing; and when standing
before the people with her patriotic little head
raised and her full triumphant voice filling the old
church she sang some of the new "war songs,"
her audience gave her a recall which was unmis-
takably sincere. Gilead was by no means " senti-
mental," but no place is too stupid to enjoy a bit
of romance, and there was a tacit understanding
that Ruby had given up her lover for her country's
sake in quite an unusual way. Hence Ruby was a
heroine and something of a martyr!
Her return on this occasion with a more dignified
192 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
bearing and a more womanly and scholarly expres-
sion than she had ever worn met a general ap-
proval, and quite warranted all the applause she
received. Abram, poor fellow, felt it all! He had
done an immense amount of hard work for the
ladies, but absolutely refused to help sing patriotic
" It would be so inconsistent," he had said to
Mrs. Plumley, when she appealed to him.
" Abram, I wish you would tell me why," she had
said, in her tender, motherly way.
1 1 is lips had trembled, but he only replied :
" I cannot," and no one had ventured any farther
appeal. So he sat well back in the audience shield-
ing his face with one hand while he watched Ruby
through his fingers !
Hiel Saunders noticed his apparent unconcern,
and said to himself:
" Blamed if I'd stan' it ! May be Ruby is the God-
dess of Liberty, but I wont ' stomp ' till I'm sure."
Esther Steele had her little triumph that evening
also when the best singers in her school gave in
perfect time and tune their favorite " Tramp, tramp,
tramp, the boys are marching," with the brass
band from the Center to accompany each chorus.
Even little Bub Spinner immortalized himself by
reciting some exquisitely absurd verses written by
his warrior uncle, with matchless fervor and a
quaint dramatic force which was nature's own gift.
Esther felt fully repaid for all her efforts as she
looked into Mrs. Spinner's toil-worn face under her
old-fashioned bonnet and saw the glow of mother-
pride and the flash of happy tears.
GILEAD'S "SOLDIERS' AID." 193
Of course there was much eating and drinking in
the " town hall," to which the audience was invited
after the exercises of each evening were over. In
that department Mrs. Douglas and Martha Thomp-
son reigned supreme over a corps of assistants who
dispensed quantities of rich cookery regardless of
At the close of this unprecedented dissipation
the tired workers counted their gains and announced
two hundred and fifty dollars for the " boys in
194 THE GJLEAD GUARDS.
"/"^ IRLS, which would you rather do, take care
VJJ" of a greasy ' Kanuck ' this spring, or help
Benjie make sugar, so I can go ahead with the other
work?" asked Abram one day in early April.
" Help make the sugar," was the quick response.
"We can do it, of course, " said Mary. "And
perhaps earn money enough to buy some calico
dresses, if you pay good wages."
" You may well say that, for Mr. Green told me
he must ask thirty cents a yard for the next lot; so
you see ten yards will cost three dollars," said
" Exactly ! good girl to remember your arith-
metic. But Mr. Green will ask a long time before
I buy his old calico. ' When this cruel war is
over ' prices will go down again," sang Mary.
"But what will you do next summer, girls?"
asked their mother.
" Turn our old dresses," replied Esther, briskly.
"You've done that already," sighed Mrs. Steele.
"Well, 'one good turn deserves another,' I've
heard you say. Now I've given my dresses one
good turn, and — "
" Esther ! Esther! " cried Mary, seizing her sister
by the arm ; " that's a joke ! Have you inherited
COM FOR T-BA GS. 1 95
Uncle Rufus's 'gift?' Think of his awful humor
and spare your poor family. I see Abram's idea;
he's all for saving money these days, and so instead
of hiring a worthy Frenchman for help he takes us,
his unworthy sisters. I'm afraid he has inherited
Uncle Mont's gift of accumulation."
Mr. Steele was searching the prophecy of Daniel
for some text which somebody said "bore on the
war ; " but he lifted his head at that moment, look-
ing over his glasses at his tall son.
" Remember, ' the life is more than meat,'
Abram," said he. " I hope I wont never see you
so fond of money as your Uncle Mont is."
" No, father, you never will ; but of course you
want to see every thing paid up, and this is the time
to do it. They say butter will be forty cents a
pound and wool over a dollar this spring."
The theme did not exactly suit Abram, and while
he was speaking he hastily thrust his papers into
his desk and locked it.
"With two or three hundred pounds of wool and
a fair showin' of butter, seems 's if we ought to be
even with the world by 'n' by," said his father, wist-
"Yes, sir ; we'll sing our emancipation hymn one
of these days; but I must be off. Is it a bargain,
Hardly waiting to hear their cheery affirmative
he hurried away. By clever management he had
already paid Hiel Saunders several hundred dollars
of the thousand ; but he knew very well that his
father — almost helpless now from increasing lame-
ness — was constantly wondering what became of
196 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
the money that came in ; for farmers were receiving
wonderful prices for all kinds of produce, and Mr.
Steele knew the income of the farm was steadily
increasing. Abram always reported sales and prices
most dutifully ; but what became of the money ? He
wondered that morning how much longer he could
bear the double burden resting upon him. After
much thought he had written to Austin a full state-
ment of the case, appealing to him to lead a better
life, to live down his disgrace, and in simple justice
to send home his wages until the awful debt was
paid. But that portion of the army with which
Austin was connected was moving from place to
place in the far South, and letters were often lost.
The last news from him was indirectly received
through soldiers at home on furlough, and might
not be reliable, so Abram was still waiting for an
answer and hoping against hope.
" There ! isn't this ever so much better than cook-
ing for a hired man?" asked Esther, as she sat
down in an old splint-bottom rocking-chair in the
sugar-house a day or two later.
Mary occupied an upturned box near, and upon
a rough little table between them was a work-
basket piled high with " sewing." Just above the
table were two long shelves filled with books and
papers, and at the one window hung a white curtain,
"to make it look more civilized," Mary said. On
the opposite side of the room was the wide brick
arch — hollow in the center, with a door in one end
— upon which was the sheet-iron pan filled with
sap, boiling and bubbling, and filling the air with
A pile of " three-foot wood" filled the back part
of the sugar-house, and sap-holders, pails, etc.,
made up its primitive furnishings.
Our description would be incomplete, however,
were we to omit the pictures upon the rough board
wall. These were the work of Benjie's artistic fin-
gers. Here, done in charcoal or red chalk, were
various heads, most of them to illustrate some pe-
culiarity of form or feature ; for Benjie was a half-
fledged phrenologist as well as an artist. Hence
noses, chins, lips, and ears indicated special " stud-
ies." The war had given him new inspiration,
however, and generals' heads were now strangely
introduced into his gallery of abnormal develop-
ments ! Harper s Weeklies were also* pinned up
here and there, with pictures of battle scenes and
of noted men, showing that our Yankee boy was
fully up with the times.
It was no cross for Esther and Mary to hurry
through with their share of the housework each
morning, and, either alone or together, to come to
this quiet and unique retreat. Their duties were
to keep the fire burning, the pan well filled with
sap, and at the proper time help Benjie " sugar
off." Considerable time remained for other work,
and their first enterprise was to be "comfort-bags "
for the soldiers.
" Have you the list of things to put in? " asked
Mary, as she carefully measured the pretty blue
cloth, ten by seven inches, for the bag itself.
Esther answered by reading the list :
" A needle-book, pin-ball, white and black thread,
buttons, large and small, pair of small scissors, bit
198 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
of bees-wax, roll of plaster, large thimble, a letter,
an envelope with blank paper inside, and a stamp."
" Doctor Adams's wife says that a good many
put in a plug of tobacco, but I wont do that," said
" Of course not," replied her sister ; " but we might
send spruce gum instead."
"Yes, that's more sensible," said Mary, "and I
suppose they have lots of time to chew something.
I've a great mind to put in my little pearl-handled
knife for my soldier-boy. I guess he may be fond
" Well, if it goes I hope the right one will get it,
for you don't find pearl-handled knives like that very
often. Doctor Snow told the girls to put in a little
package of cayenne pepper. He says when the
poor fellows come in wet and cold it would be
splendid to have a cup of pepper-tea," said Esther.
" That's just the thing. And I'll write on the
outside of my package, ' To be divided with the
rebels.' It's only fair to give them a peppering,
" I shall send my little black Testament. That
will be precious if the soldier is sick or homesick.
It is easy enough to fill the list, all but the letter.
What to write I don't know," said Esther, bending
thoughtfully over her work.
" Why, really, I thought practice made perfect ; "
and Mary gave her sister a tantalizing glance.
Esther's face flushed hotly from chin to smooth
brown hair, and she answered not a word.
"Speaking of letters," continued Mary, "did
you hear them telling, the other evening, how
COM FOR T-BA GS. 199
Sophie Adams's correspondence had come out? It
must have been after you left, then. You know
she sent a letter several months ago, and got an
answer right away, and of course you saw the photo-
graph she had — "
Both girls paused to laugh heartily, for Sophie
Adams's " Sergeant " had been exhibited all over
" Then she had her picture taken when that
ambrotype-car was here, and Emma Green said it
was a sight. She borrowed Emma's rings, and so
of course she sprawled her hands, and she wore her
aunt's gold chain. Well, she sent him that ; and
finally the girls said that Sophie said she was en-
gaged to him. But last month, when Lieutenant
Plumley was home from Washington, he told her
mother something, it seems, which put a stop to it,
and now some of the Gilead boys have written
home that Sophie's ' Sergeant ' is a married man !
It's all over town, and she feels dreadfully. You
see he just made fun of her letters and showed her
picture to all the boys, and so, of course, it was
recognized. They say she's hardly been out of the
house since it happened."
"No wonder!" said Esther, rather severely.
" How could a girl be so foolish ? I hope it
will be a warning to the rest of those silly village
. " Aint we glad we live on a farm, where there's
nothing but good sense?" asked Mary, serenely.
While Esther was laughing quietly over this
thrust Benjie's " Hallo there ! " was heard outside,
and Mary ran to open the door.
200 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
He came in with two pails brimming full of sap,
suspended from the hooks of the wooden " yoke "
made to fit his neck and shoulders.
" O, do be quick, and let us have the mail,"
cried the girls; for Benjie had been "across lots"
to the village on the hard-crusted snow, which still
loitered in the woods and shaded hollows.
" O, yes," responded the boy, as he let down his
heavy pails and hung up his yoke, " you're ter-
rible glad to see me when I come from the post-
office. Here's your letter, Esther, and it's such a
fat one you'll have to give me two pieces of mince-
pie at noon. I've got one from John Henry Hickey,
and some papers. Now, Esther, read yours out
loud first, and then I'll read mine."
For answer Esther gave her brother a playful
push and slipped her letter into her pocket.
" O, do read yours, Benjie, I'm in a hurry to
know if the Guards are going to the front," said
" No, they're still at Fort Stevens ; but this is what
he says about it :
" ' We hear that the hitherto inglorious Gilead
Guards are to be called to the front, and we may
yet make a brilliant record on some field to be
historic. For I tell you when we do move the un-
derpinning of the rebellion will give way.
"'Our heavy artillery don't expect to do any
flirting with dangerous weapons. Do we want to
go ? Most of us do, I truly believe, and if all the
talk amounts to nothing a good many will be dis-
appointed. But you know the hunter turned pale
with fright when, on inquiring of the woodman if
COM FOR T-BA GS. 20 1
he had seen any lions' tracks around there, he was
told that the lion himself was near by. It may be
so with us. It is certain that General Sedgwick
has asked for this regiment, and I for one am tired
staying around here drilling, digging ditches, etc.
" ' I suppose you have begun to make sugar by this
time, and I'd give a month's pay if I could go up
to our old sugar place and help father tap the
maples. George and I got talking about it last
night, till we could smell the sap and the birch
and see the snow-banks under the trees with chip-
munks scurrying over them.
" ' And then we thought of father plodding
around there all alone, and I tell you what ! — it
was dark in our tent, and I sha'n't say whether we
had wet eyes or not. It's nobody's business. Gov-
ernment don't pay any thing extra for smiles.' "
There fell a little silence after this, and the girls
could hardly set their stitches, for they, too, were
paid nothing "extra for smiles ! " and it was very
easy in those days to shed a few tears over a home-
sick soldier-boy's letter.
But Benjie could never keep a newspaper to him-
self, and he was soon slapping his knee, according
to his usual habit, as he exclaimed :
"Good enough! Grant's been to Washington,
and they've made him lieutenant-general. Since
then seems 's if every thing had started up lively, and
I tell you there's going to be a spring campaign
that'll finish up our quarrel, I believe."
A few minutes later there was another concus-
sion, and a " Hear this, will you ? Guess we better
have a regiment sent up here to Vermont. ' Cop-
202 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
perheads in Jeffers.' I don't believe it's more 'n
fifty miles from here as the crow flies."
He then proceeded to read :
" ' Rev. Mr. Stowe, of Jeffers, is a patriotic minis-
ter who is not ashamed to preach his sentiments.
Unfortunately, a portion of his flock are Southern
sympathizers — that is, copperheads. A week ago
they took possession of the church, armed- with blud-
geons, and locked the doors, declaring he should
not preach there again. One man tried to get in
through a window, and they felled him to the ground.
But during the week there was a mighty reaction,
and last Sunday he was escorted to the church by two
hundred citizens, and he preached. It need hardly
be said that his theme was loyalty to the govern-
" Good enough ! " ejaculated Benjie again.
" There's some excuse for the rebs themselves—
they've been brought up with slavery ; but I just
despise a copperhead 's bad as King does- And
that makes me think of the best joke. Yes, I know
the sap-buckets 'U run over, but I must tell you this.
It happened when I was in Green's this morning
after those tin spiles. You know Lib Slocum's
going up to the ' White Mountings ' this summer to
help spend some of the money old Slopum has
made out of government."
This was a bit of neighborhood gossip, repeated
with a fine scorn for "shoddy" and disloyalty until
it had become a stock phrase.
" But you didn't know Lib was home from Bos-
ton ? She is, though, and came tiptoeing into the
store with a green silk dress on and her ribbons and
dingle-dangles all a-fluttering. She looked so kind
of airy and foreign that I got behind the plows in
the back part of the store. But I could hear. She
minced up to the counter, and says she, ' Mr. Green,
I believe? ' "
At this absurd recollection Benjie fell off the
bucket which was his seat and finished his story
on the floor.
" Then she had over a lot of palaver about Boston,
and wound up by buying four yards of cloth and a
spool of thread and one of those little hooks that
you twist thread round to make trimmin'. Well,
Green looked awful stony-like in his face, jus' as if
she'd asked him for a subscription, but he rolled up
her things and tried to change the bill she handed
out. It was a twenty-dollar bill, and he fumbled
through his till and then went over to Barstow's
corner before he could fix it. By 'n' by he brought
along the change, and then, then, sir, she handed
him back the bundle and told him she'd thank him
to send it out to her ' papa's ! ' "
After an interval of laughter Benjie continued :
"You'd ought to 've heard Green talk after she
went out. He almost swore, and he said he'd
throw her things into the road ; but Barstow told
him to carry out the joke. He advised him to have
his hired man take the big wagon and span and
drive up there with a flourish, and have two or
three fellers to help carry the bundle into the house.
They'll spread the story all 'round aforehand, of
course. I'll bet they'll have lots of fun, and I'm
going over to-night to see."
Having finished his story Benjie hurried away to
204 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
gather the sap, while Esther and Mary discussed
the matter as they filled the "comfort-bags."
" To think that Lib Slocum, who couldn't learn
the multiplication table to save her life, should have
money to throw away, while we can't even afford to
go off to school ! It isn't fair," said Mary, bitterly.
She had the same feeling that you have had, per-
chance, when some addle-pated human received the
shekels which you could have used so wisely.
" But we mustn't forget how the money came,"
said Esther. " Every body says her father has been
just as dishonest as he could be with those con-
tracts and that he may be obliged to run to Canada
" He can be spared, and I do hope Rast will go
too. It just makes me mad to see so much mean-
ness driving 'round behind those splendid black
horses of theirs."
" Rast would be delighted to add your good sense
and respectability to his turn-out," suggested Esther.
" Me ! " and Mary, quite unable to express her
indignation, began to prepare their noonday lunch,
while Esther went out where the sunshine fell
through interlacing trees to read her precious letter.
Don's convictions were similar to John Henry's,
and he, too, was anxious to see what real war was
A little later word came that the "Guards" were
ordered to the front.
SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 205
THE Standard of May 27, 1864, brought the
following urgent message from Mrs. Daven-
port, the State Superintendent of the Sanitary
" My latest dispatches represent the greatest
need of every thing for use on the battle-fields.
Those towns in Massachusetts that received dis-
patches Saturday evening, turned out en masse and
sewed all day Sunday and continued their work
till the compaign was over. We can have no other
thought now but to do every thing in our power to
help the sufferers and thus to strengthen the army.
If we do all we can, and stimulate every man,
woman, and child to do their part, it does seem
that this terrible conflict may be brought to an end,
for at length we have a leader.* Cannot the ladies
of your town suspend all other interests, and all
work resolutely to supply what cannot be bought
in market at any price ? Cotton and flannel gar-
ments, slippers, socks, quilts or spreads, dressing-
gowns, every thing that can be needed — there is no
danger of a mistake. Old cotton and linen are
much wanted, and maple-sugar and dried fruits.
The commission sent two steamers of two hun-
dred tons capacity, fully laden with supplies, and
* General Grant.
206 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
with a large corps of trained relief agents and
nurses, male and female, from Baltimore into the
James River, to follow General Butler's column and
reach the army of General Grant that way. Two
other boats went from Washington laden in the
same way on the ioth to Aquia Creek, thence to
send supplies and agents across the country to
" Now we must send supplies to take the place
of these as fast as used — tons per day — among our
tens of thousands of wounded.
" The wounded of the enemy must also be cared
for. Every stitch is of consequence, and they ap-
peal to the women of every house to help carry for-
ward this mighty work. The government is doing
what was never before done by any government or
dreamed of. But the medical bureau is not allowed
to advance its stores, so the commission does the
brunt of the work in first reaching the sufferers, and
its ambulance-train bears them off to the reach of
the government supplies and surgeons. Send by
express (for this emergency) to Brattleboro."
The women of Gilead thought they were doing
about all they could through the " Soldiers' Aid,"
but when they heard this bugle-blast there was a
Mrs. Plumley and Doctor Adams's wife took a
carriage as soon as the call came and drove from
house to house through the village and far beyond.
But what could these country women give more
than they had given ? Why, they gave what they
wanted to keep !
There was old Grandma'am Pike who had some
SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 207
linen sheets which she had kept years and years.
She went to the big polished bureau with its brass
handles, which stood in the everlasting twilight of
her " best room," and got down upon her stiff old
knees before the lower drawer.
"They're a part o' my settin' out," said she, piti-
fully, looking up into Mrs. Adams's animated face.
" And I never 'spected to part with 'em, never !
I spun the flax on my own little wheel and the
thread was 'mazin' fine, and I made 'em up with
uncommon little stitches, too — none of 'em's broke
in all these years. But if the soldiers want 'em,
and need 'em, they'll hev to go ; " and overcoming
her natural selfishness — a hard thing at her age —
she pulled out four soft, fine sheets, while the faded
rose-leaves in which she had packed them fluttered
down like butterflies' ghosts upon the carpet.
" Could ye jest write, ' These come from Grand-
ma'am Pike,' and pin it onto them ? Then if our
Gilead boys got 'em they'd know I didn't feel no
ways stingy toward 'em."
"Yes, indeed, I will mark them," assented Mrs.
Adams, as she gratefully received the precious gift.
This was an inspiration to others, who said : " If
Grandma'am Pike's given away her linen sheets its
time for us to give away our keepsakes."
Mrs. Rollins grimly presented a " rising sun "
bed-quilt, wishing in her heart that it might find
its way to Thomas, but quite sure that, whatever be-
came of it, she had done her duty by her country.
But most of the gifts were from those who forgot
themselves entirely in the overwhelming desire to
208 THE GILEAD GUARDS,
Little companies of ladies gathered that evening
to make shirts and other articles, sewing until long
past rest-hours. Indeed, away up on the side of
the mountain, lights burned all night at Mrs. Smith's
and Mrs. Hickey's as they plied their needles.
Esther had already begun her summer-school in
the "mountain district," earlier than usual, in the
hope that she might go to Hope Seminary in the
A note and a copy of the appeal reached her
early in the afternoon, and at three o'clock she dis-
missed the scholars, telling them how the poor sol-
diers were suffering, and that every body was going
to give what they could right away to help them.
"Teacher," said Jasmine Ripley, her hand up-
held, eagerly, " do you think they'd like maple-
sugar hearts? "
"Yes, indeed! they ask for maple-sugar; but
don't rob yourselves, children."
Poor little things ! With their bare, brown feet,
and plain, cheap clothing, they did not look as if
they had any thing to spare ; but as she watched
them trooping up the shady roadways Esther felt
quite sure that some of them were already planning
their little sacrifices. She herself hastened to call
upon Vic Armstrong, as the one most likely to aid
in this emergency. And it was a pleasure now to
" run up to Vic's," for a marvelous change had come
to the little woman and her home.
As Esther approached she saw her, sewing in
hand, seated between two trees near the house.
Always pretty, Vic was doubly attractive now in
her clean, neatly fitting calico dress, with muslin
SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 209
ruffles at neck and wrists. Her beautiful hair was
coiled up in a net whose wide silken meshes could
not conceal its shining abundance.
" O, Vic, how nice you look ! I believe I must
kiss you," said Esther; and Vic, smiling and dim-
pling, sprang up to kiss her friend, not once, but
" How well your yard looks, and how your flowers
are springing up!" and Esther looked around ad-
miringly upon the hints of beauty in that once
desolate front yard.
" Yes, I guess it's because I have the sun here all
day. Frank helped me last night, and set out vines
all over that stump, like Mrs. Stubbs's. I've got
lots of seed in, too ; and, Esther, I've made a tidy
for my big rocker — yes, ma'am, and finished it ; and
now I'm making a pretty patch-work quilt."
Esther turned and looked admiringly into the
" O, Vic, isn't it nice ! How different every thing
seems ! "
" I know it ! " cried Vic, impulsively. " O, what a
little fool I was ! Why didn't somebody take me
and shake me? Well, you may laugh, and I
know you're thinkin' that I didn't like to be shaken
very well. But, Esther, what's school out so early
for? It can't be four o'clock."
Then the story was told, and, pausing only long
enough to put a clean dress on Nellie, the two
started, with the little maiden between them, to
visit the most accessible homes.
Mrs. Stanley, who had become a sort of patron
saint to these two girls, made a quick response, her
210 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
eyes kindling as she heard the appeal. From a tiny
closet she brought a handsome dressing-gown gayly
lined with soft crimson.
" I am sure Donald would wish me to send this
if he were here ; " and she held it up lovingly.
" He always took so much comfort in it Sun-
days, after church, and evenings when we two
were alone." Struggling to suppress her emo-
tion, she continued after a little : " I do hope it
will cheer some poor fellow in the hospital. And
I might as well put his slippers with it. Yes, I
will. Why should I stop to ask if he will want
them some time in the future? No, the need is too
And Esther bit her lips, forcing herself to smile,
glad indeed to see even these sacred things given,
but questioning within herself,
" Why should she speak as though he might not
come home? "
As they left the house with their precious pack-
age Vic said softly :
" Don't you remember when some of the folks
found out that Don had a dressing-gown ? They
said he was ' putting on airs,' and wanted to be as
fine as the minister. But Joe says he's brave as a
lion about every thing. Joe says he helps Elder
Putnam in the meetings, and he says it takes real
grit to speak and pray there, when so many of the
boys laugh at such things. I guess the folks here
at home '11 think a little different when he gets back ;
and Joe's sure he'll be a captain or something be-
All of which was very pleasant to Esther's ears,
SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 211
but she walked on silently, the dressing-gown and
slippers held tightly against her heart.
Mrs. Labrique, the sturdy little Frenchwoman,
who lived in a log-house by the brook, listened with
many exclamations of sympathy to their appeal
and gave a pair of fat feather pillows for " the head
of them to lie soft on."
A grim, unapproachable spinster at the next
house listened in absolute silence, and as silently
extended to them a pair of soft wool socks, just
Mrs. Spinner greeted them with a downcast
" Bub told me what you said, teacher, and I
want to help, but I haint nothin' to give. Now,
that aint the truth — not quite, only ' so to speak ! '
Because I've got some dried ros'bries, and I've
been savin' 'em till you come here to board. If I
should send 'em to the soldiers you couldn't have
any sass all whilst you was here, for there aint an-
other livin' thing to make sass of. Now, you may
guess my mind's been all topsy-turvy ever sence
Bub come home from school ; " and with her face
quivering all over with emotion Mrs. Spinner car-
ried her apron to her eyes.
"Why, Mrs. Spinner, I don't want any sauce.
I'd rather have the berries go to the soldiers if you'd
like to send them ; "' and Esther put her young arms
around the poor tired woman, hardly knowing
whether to laugh or cry.
" Would ye now? Be ye sure you could stan' it?
Well, then, I shall do it, for nothin' makes me feel
quite so discouraged and good for nothin' as not to
212 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
be able to give ;" and, wiping away her tears, Mrs.
Spinner soon brought forward two or three quarts
of nicely dried berries.
" They're beautiful berries as ever was. Bub
and Irene picked 'em right upon the slope yonder,"
said she, all in a glow of satisfaction, as she tied
them up securely in a clean salt-bag.
A few more calls and they paused at Mrs.
Stubbs's, whose deft fingers soon cut and basted a
plain hospital shirt, upon which they sewed dili-
gently until late in the evening.
When Esther went to unlock the school-house
door at half past eight the following morning she
found a dozen boys and girls waiting, each one
bearing a package.
" O, teacher, we've brung our sugar-hearts,"
shouted Flora Denhurst, " and we'd rather give 'em
Sure enough, the little packages contained cakes
of maple-sugar, both round and heart-shaped,
amounting to several pounds, according to scales
used by mortals. How much they weighed when
love and self-denial were added, who can tell?
" Teacher, I bit off a corner of my heart," con-
fessed Flora's little sister Josie. " It's very sweet.
Do you think the soldiers '11 care ? " and fearing
some one might call her selfish she hid her face in
Esther's dress and began to cry.
" No, dear, if the soldiers could see your little
white teeth, and could know how much you love
maple-sugar, I'm sure they'd think this was the
sweetest cake in the box. But who brought this?"
holding up a bundle tied with a good fish-line.
SELF DENIAL SUPPLIES. 213
Byron Smith nodded in reply.
" That's spruce-gum and slippery-el-lum," said he.
" Me and the girls got it, and mother said 'twould
be good for a change."
" So it will. The slippery-elm is ever so good
for a cough. But why did you put this nice fish-
line around it? Wont you want it? " she asked.
Byron's face reddened.
" Yes'm, but I wanted to send it. There wasn't
nothin' but common string unless I took that."
Esther understood, and the fish-line went.
Within four days the box was packed and sent.
The list of articles it contained was published in the
Standard, and may be of interest :
"Sixteen sheets, 3 quilts, 13 cotton shirts, 6
woolen shirts, 5 dozen towels, 71 rolls bandage,
7 rolls flannel, 4 rolls cotton cloth, I large bundle
linen, 1 dressing-gown, I pair slippers, 5 pair socks,
2 bottles wine, 16 pounds dried berries, 17 pounds
dried apple, 41 pounds maple-sugar, \ pound
spruce-gum, 6 feather pillows, I dozen arm-slings,
A few days later one of Vic's characteristic little
notes reached Esther begging for a call directly
after school. The little mistress of the cottage was
evidently in trouble, for she met her friend with red
and swollen eyes and every appearance of distress.
" Why, what is the matter with you, Vic ? Have
you had bad news from Joe?" queried Esther,
throwing her hat upon the table, taking up the
perplexed baby and seating herself in a listening
" I don't know — that is, may be you wont call it
214 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
bad news. Read Joe's letter — that page, and
Esther began at the point indicated and read :
" I guess you'll be surprised, and I hope glad, to
know that I am trying to be a Christian. It aint
any thing sudden, for I've been thinking about it a
good while. You see I didn't know, Vic, that men
could be so awful wicked as some of these soldiers
be. And when I saw them drinking and gambling,
and heard them swear, it roused me clear through.
I wished I had power to strike them down in their
tracks. You see I felt like they was rebels, not
against the country, but against God, and I felt like
fighting for the government of high heaven. And
the more I heard, the worse I felt. I declare it was
as if they was abusing my best friend. But then I
began to think that I was a rebel, too, for I hadn't
done any thing to show which side I was on. One
day I felt so stirred up over it it seemed as if I'd
die. So then I hunted up Don Stanley, and he
found Elder Put, and we had a prayer-meeting.
They prayed and I prayed, and I tell you before
meeting was done I knew which side I was on. It
wasn't hard, because the recruiting office was wide
open, and when I'd once made up my mind there
I was, an accepted volunteer ! Just as sure of it as
I was when my name went on the list up in Gilead
that I was one of the Guards. O, I tell you, Vic,
when you think of your poor Joe in a battle now
you needn't be afraid" — the bottom of the page
was reached, and Esther's eyes were full of happy
" Why, Vicky, isn't it grand ? I should think you
SELF-DENIAL SUPPLIES. 215
would be singing for joy. Tell me what there is to
cry about," said she, pleadingly.
"Joe was good enough before," exclaimed Vic,
pettishly. " He didn't do any thing wicked ; he
was 'way up above me in goodness, and I've just
been trying to catch up to him for a whole year. I
found out he was studyin' books then and getting to
know more than I, so Frank and I bought books too,
and studied last winter 'most every night. I learned
lots of things, just to surprise him. And you know
how I've learned to cook. Why, my bread is 'most
as good as Mrs. Stubbs's ; Frank says so. And we've
got the farm all paid for, and fixed up things real
nice, all for him. And now, now, when I begun to
think I was just about as he would like to find me
when he comes home, now he goes and gets to be
a Christian and goes 'way, 'way beyond me again. I
can't bear it, Esther, I really can't bear it!" and
down went her head into baby Nellie's lap, within
reach of Esther's caressing hand.
For a few moments Esther did not know what to
say. Absurd and childish as Vic's reasoning was,
she knew that it meant a great deal to her. So she
sat in the silence of the little room praying very
earnestly for wisdom.
" Vic, dear," she said at length, " who has helped
you so far in trying to catch up with Joe, as you
" You have," was the low answer.
" But if I have done any thing it was because
God put it in my mind, for we don't do good things
naturally. So if he hadn't helped you you could
not have overcome your bad habits as you have.
216 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
And the same Spirit that has helped you has lifted
Joe up another step higher than either of you had
reached before. Joe was willing to be helped, but
God is just the same always toward every body. So
if you really want to catch up to Joe again you
needn't stay behind a single day unless you choose.
Joe talks about it like a soldier, but we can be sol-
diers in Christ's army, Vic, as well as the men. And
you know Joe has done right. He came to a place
where he must be a better man or a worse man
than ever before. What if he'd begun to drink and
swear ? O, Vic, it is the best news you ever had !
And it is just as he says, if he goes into battle now,
even if he should be killed you would know he was
Little Nellie had been looking with wide, solemn
ev£s into Esther's face, and as she paused she
clasped her little hands and lisped, " Tan I say my
pray-er now?" Not waiting for a reply, she began
in reverent tones, " Our Fa'ver which art in heav-
en," closing as she always did, " B'ess Papa Joe,
keep him all safe, and b'ing him home to mamma."
With a little cry Vic caught the child to her
heart sobbing, " O, baby, you and I must catch up
to Papa Joe, yes, we must ! "
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 217
TWO LIVES FOR ONE.
" And I saw in a vision how far and fleet
That fatal bullet went speeding forth
Till it reached a town in the distant North,
Till it reached a house in a sunny street,
Till it reached a heart that ceased to beat
Without a murmur, without a cry ;
. And a bell was tolled in that far-off town,
For one who had passed from cross to crown. —
And the neighbors wondered that she should die."
IT was a beautiful morning in early June, and as
Esther started from her boarding-place — she
was now at Mrs. Spinner's — her heart seemed to
respond involuntarily to its rhythm. June mornings
have often been immortalized in prose and poetry,
but in the mountain district, where Nature so nearly
had her own way, there was a kind of original fresh-
ness which was simply indescribable. It was as if,
for the sake of those who lived there in a pinched
and lonely style, a little panorama of days had been
planned full of quiet revelations and surprises. Mrs.
Spinner's twins, Adna and Alta, who were nearly
four years old, had that summer begun their scho-
lastic career, much to their mother's relief and Es-
ther's perplexity. A pillow had been sent to the
school-house with the two babies, on which one
curly head, and sometimes both, reposed for a long
218 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
nap every forenoon. These two cherubs clung to
their beloved teacher as they ran clown the mount-
ain-path puffing in unison, as though they had but
one pair of lungs between them.
It was early, for Esther liked to " set copies " be-
fore school ; but the twins were to play by the
brook under certain restrictions which had been
vigorously impressed by their mother. As they
reached the main road Esther saw Hiel Saunders
riding rapidly toward her on one of Squire Fletch-
er's farm-horses. As he saw her he slackened his
speed, finally checking his horse to say :
" You hain't heard the news, have ye?"
Hiel's face looked drawn and agitated, and Esther
asked, with a vague alarm :
" What is it ? Do you mean bad news from the
army ? "
" Awful ! You see our boys was in battle day
before yisterday, down to Cold Harbor, and they
got all cut up. The list come las' night, and squire
and me 're out to notify the friends. I'm goin' to
Widder Stanley's an' then up to Hickey's V Smith's,
an' so on round this deestrict."
" Mr. Saunders, were any of them killed ? " Es-
ther forced herself to ask.
" Killed ! I guess they was ! Don Stanley,
George Hickey, two of the Smiths, either two of
the boys or him an' one boy, we don't know which.
Then up t'other way there's Thomas Rollins 'n' Fol-
linsbee. O, I can't tell ye ; there's a long list of
Hiel drew his hand across his eyes and struck his
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 219
horse sharply, as though he could not venture an-
other word. Esther stood as he had left her for an
instant and then sank down at the foot of a huge
maple, whose roots reached into the roadway. For
a brief time a great darkness mercifully shut out
the glory of the morning. With her head against
the tree-trunk and hands clinched tightly in the
moist brown earth she sat stunned, crushed, help-
less. Then a wood-bird cleft the air overhead,
alighting upon a swaying bough, and from his little
throat burst a song so shrill and sweet, so full of
abandon, that it reached the stricken heart like a
sharp needle-thrust, and she drew a long, quivering
" O God ! O God ! " she moaned, " I don't want
to live any longer ! "
Then followed a few moments of intense and
silent suffering, such as humanity can bear and still
live. God makes us so. And then the sound of
children's voices, high-toned and full of musical
trills, echoed through the woods.
Esther belonged to a race of strong-nerved men
and women, and the habit of self-control and self-
repression was as forceful within her as life itself.
To conceal her pain — this was her first thought.
She was not formally " engaged " to Don Stanley,
hence, according to Gilead's social laws, had no
right to " mourn." The fear of curious question-
ings, the dread of the children's keen eyes even,
touched her pride, and by the time they discovered
her she stood pale and quiet under the tree.
" O, teacher, can't we trim up before school ?
It's goin' to be awful hot to-day, so me and Flora
220 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
got these to fill the winders with," panted Irene
Wells as she hurried down the hill laden with clean,
cool branches of maple and birch.
"And I've got evergreen for your desk and the
stove," added Jasmine, whose love for pretty things
led to all sorts of devices in decorating the bare
walls and rusty stove.
She linked her arm into Esther's, whispering :
" You look pale this mornin', teacher. Wont
you let me hear the baby classes for you ? "
"Yes, dear; my — my head aches, I believe."
Her voice sounded far away and strange to her-
self, but Jasmine did not notice as she talked on in
a womanly fashion, still giving the welcome sup-
port of her arm. As they approached the school-
house a cry of distress was heard, and Esther soon
found that Adna and Alta, forgotten and neglected,
had fallen into the brook, from which Bub had just
rescued them. They were crying in unison, and, for
the first time, Esther made no effort to check them.
As she wiped their hands and faces and sent them
home in Bub's charge she was grateful for the diver-
sion which gave her a chance to creep into the cool,
empty school-room while the children were examin-
ing the brook critically and discussing how the twins
fell in. And she still waited, bending over a copy-
book with dry pen in hand, while the curtainless win-
dows were being filled with fragrant branches; then,
like a wounded officer who would not " fall back,"
she began her monotonous round of duties.
"Teacher! teacher!" It was little Josephine
whose hand was raised. " Can't we sing the com-
ing-home song which I like so well ? "
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 221
" She means ' When Johnnie comes marchin'
home again.' We all want it," seconded her seat-
" Children," said Esther, after a little, " will you
be willing to give up singing that this morning?
Let us take ' We thank thee, Lord, for morning
That was the hardest test of the day, for the
children could sing the song grandly and it had al-
ways been an inspiration, but now ! Could she ever
sing it again ? It was some time before she remem-
bered that she was not alone in this new sorrow ;
but, as Byron Smith came to her with one of his
profound questions she suddenly thought, " Why,
your home is under the shadow too! " Yes, and
more than one or two would be found among those
who mourned ; but she resolved to keep them
through one more day in ignorance of it, if possible.
It was nearly noon when Hiel rode up to Mr.
Steele's door and, without dismounting, rapped
with his whip-stock to attract attention. Miss
Hancock, who had been sent home from Washing-
ton several weeks before, worn out with hospital
service, was visiting there, and was relating some of
her experiences to Mr. and Mrs. Steele when they
heard the summons.
" Somebody wants me, I'm almost sure," said Miss
Hancock, as the two women hastened to the door.
" You've heard about the fight down to Cold
Harbor, I s'pose?" began Hiel.
" No ; our boys went up to the hill farm early
this morning. Do tell us what's happened," said
222 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
So he told his pitiful story again, only interrupted
by the sympathetic ejaculations of his hearers.
" All the partic'lars haint come yet," said Hiel,
but it looks 's if they'd had a desp'rate fight, with
thousands killed ; and amongst 'em a good many
Vermonters. It beats all what lots of our boys
has gone. Doctor Adams read the list, and it was
dretful to hear. Mis' Follinsbee, she stood there
in the crowd, and when she heard Hi's name she
gin one cry and sunk right down on the floor. I was
close by, 'nd helped carry her home. I never c'n
stan' round 'n' not help when any body's in trouble;"
and Hiel looked around half fiercely, as though
some one had questioned the propriety of his ac-
"Of course not, but what became of her? Who
took care of her?" asked Miss Hancock.
" Wal, we laid her on the bed, and the children
begun to cry, and we gin her some water, and by
'n' by she come to, and then I sent over some of
the women. I tell you, Miss Hancock, this war's
dretful hard on the women. I don't never covet
another job like what I've done this morning— car-
ryin' sech news to half a dozen poor creetur's.
Squire needn't send me no more. I don't exactly
worry over any of 'em, 'less 'tis Widder Stanley.
And thet's what I come this way fur. I wish 't
you could git up there, Miss Hancock. Seems
to me she'd ought to have some woman there a
" Why, Hiel, what do you mean ? Tell us all
about it," said Miss Hancock, anxiously.
Hiel's voice was husky, and he had to clear his
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 223
throat before replying. At length, with his face
turned quite away from his listeners, he began :
" I rode up there, you know, 'n' rapped easy, fer
I could hear the widder singin' somethin' about Je-
rusalem. She come to the door, 'n' says she in her
soft way, ' Is it Mr. Saunders ? ' ' Yes'm,' says I,
dreadin' what would come next ; but there come a
strange look into her eyes, 's if she mistrusted ; 'n'
she says, ' Tell me the very worst.' So then I did.
Wal, she put her hand up here " — indicating his heart
— "kinder quick, 'n' says she, ' Are you sure?' I
says, ' I'm 'fraid I be, ma'am. Can't I do somethin'
fer ye ? ' But she said ' No,' 'n' thanked me — actually
thanked me fer comin' up. Then she went back 'n'
shet to the door. But someway I was dretful un-
easy, feared she might faint away, so I jes' sidled
round to the winder, and looked in over the currant-
bushes. She jus' got down on to her knees 'n' be-
gun to pray; that's what she did. Tell you, it made
me feel cur'ous. Some folks seem to be on dretful
good terms with spirits ; but I never see any body
act 's if she belonged to the family 's the widder did.
You'd thought Jesus Christ was right close by.
Wal, I aint no hand to talk, but it made me feel 's
I did once when I stayed to communion, waitin' fer
squire's wife. I couldn't stan' it, so I got away.
But it kinder worries me. Think you'll git up there,
Miss Hancock? "
Both women had been quietly weeping while
Hiel was talking, and Mr. Steele was nearly as much
affected as he sat in the door-way.
" Yes, I'll go up right away, Hiel ; the walk will do
me good," said she, heartily. "There's hospital
224 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
work here in the North, I'm thinking, only it isn't
the poor wounded body that needs help after a
" That's so," said Hiel, as he turned his horse and
rode slowly away.
Two hours later Miss Hancock was walking
slowly toward the mountain, above which ominous
clouds were gathering, with mutterings of distant
thunder. It was quite dark as she reached the little
cottage, shaded now by clouds and trees, and she
was glad to step uninvited into the little entry.
Pausing a moment to collect her thoughts, she
tapped gently upon the kitchen door. There was no
response, and after another louder knock she vent-
ured to open it. The kitchen, neat and orderly as
it always was, seemed to be empty, but fearing to
intrude further into the room she spoke : " Dear
Mrs. Stanley, will you let me come in and try to
comfort you? I have been wanting to come and
tell you about Donald, ever since I got home."
Still there was no reply, and as the storm was
rapidly increasing she entered, closing the door and
groping her way to a chair.
Thunder-storms among the mountains are often
terrible in their violence, and this one seemed to
descend with a peculiar swiftness, as if to en-
fold the little settlement. The room grew very
dark, save when it was illuminated by flashes
of lightning; and after a sudden hush, as if to
draw its breath for greater conflicts, the storm burst
with torrents of rain. The trees outside swayed
over the tiny house and the rain dashed spitefully
against the windows, while the wind came tramp-
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 225
ling through the woods like a separate force, more
of earth than air. Above all solemn thunder-peals
echoed and re-echoed.
Miss Hancock was not greatly disturbed by the
tempest. To be sure, she sat with tightly clasped
hands listening with a feeling of awe to the " war-
ring of the elements," but she was more anxious
about her poor friend and her own duty.
At length she rose, saying, softly, " It is no kind-
ness for me to sit here, for if she ever needed a friend
she needs one just now." Approaching the bed-
room, she found the door ajar. One glance within,
and, filled with vague forebodings, she turned back
to light a lamp, with which she entered the room.
Don's mother was lying upon the bed, her white
face pressing the pillow as if in natural sleep ;
but the white hand which Miss Hancock clasped
was cold and lifeless. " Beyond the storm ! beyond
the storm ! you and Don together, just as you would
have had it," she murmured, her tears dropping
fast. But the next moment she rose to meet this
unexpected emergency. With the skill gained in
hospital experience she applied such restoratives as
could be found, pausing not an instant until con-
vinced after a long-continued effort that her task
was hopeless. " O, I wish Doctor Snow was here !"
she exclaimed, overwhelmed with a sense of her iso-
lation and helplessness.
But, looking at the quiet form before her, she
knew very well that no earthly physician could do
more than had been done. Covering it gently, she
whispered, " What time I am afraid, I will trust in
thee;" and thus dividing the burden that seemed
226 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
heavy she sat down by the bedside with a feeling
of sacred companionship and waited for the storm
to subside. And this was not long delayed. The
mutterings of thunder were now distant and low,
the wind crept away to its hiding-place, and with
timid thankfulness shrubs and flowers rose from
the earth and stood glistening in the sun, which soon
shone as brightly as ever. This surprised and radiant
expression, which all nature wears after such a
tempest, is one of its compensations ; and the paean
of praise sung by wild birds over their deliverance
Miss Hancock knew when the storm ceased, knew
that the sun was shining, but still sat thinking and
mourning alone, arousing herself at length only in
response to a timid rap at the door.
" Why, Esther, is it you ? I was wishing the Lord
would send one of his servants, for my strength is
almost exhausted," she exclaimed as she admit-
ted the young girl. " But, dear child, you look
strange! Esther — Esther — has that ball struck
your heart too? Wait a moment — "
" O, Miss Hancock, I've been waiting all day.
Let me see Mrs. Stanley," pleaded Esther, losing
her self-control at last and yielding to the kind
arms which enfolded her with a " Poor child ! poor
child ! "
Drawing her to a seat, Miss Hancock waited until
the first bitter but blessed tears had brought relief,
and she again whispered :
"Where is Don's mother? I know she wants
Then she softly replied, "Yes, you shall see her;
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 227
but — can you bear to know that she has gone — to
meet her soldier-boy?"
A moment later Esther looked upon the patient,
peaceful face, and knelt by the bedside. Into her
bewilderment and grief a strange exalted sense of
divine interposition had entered. She had looked
forward all day to this meeting with Don's mother,
for they two understood each other, and they would
lock the door and weep together ! This had been
her thought ; but Someone had come with a mes-
sage, and, instead of waiting to mourn with her she
had gone on to rejoice with him. But would they
not remember her, left so lonely and desolate?
Esther had a very simple faith. She could not have
explained the holy influences which met her as she
knelt so long in the silence of that little room — in-
fluences which lingered with her always ; but when
she read from the word, " And there appeared an
angel unto him from heaven, strengtheninghim" she
felt sure that she knew — just a little — of what it
In the midst of its wide-spread sorrow Gilead
paused to " do its duty " by her who had lived
among them like a stranger. There were some who
would have found a certain enjoyment in entering
the house and examining all that was in it ; in
whispering and "guessing" around her helpless
form ; in seeking to rind in box or drawer or desk
some clew to her former life and position. But Miss
Hancock was there, and curiosity itself had a whole-
some respect for her rights as friend and supervisor.
The strong maiden lady who had stayed with Mrs.
Stanley every night since Don's departure took
228 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
charge of the necessary preparations, and Miss Han-
cock and Esther alone examined such effects as
were left in the cottage. They found finely em-
broidered clothing for the shrouding, so rarely fine
that Miss Hancock but expressed the thoughts of
both when she said :
" Our friend has known, sometime, what it was to
have the best that money could buy."
They also found a large package of Don's letters,
marked, "To be burned in case of death," and in an
envelope money more than sufficient to meet all
expenses. But beyond these and the limited ward-
robe, furniture, and books, nothing remained.
" It seems as if she was all ready for the journey,"
And the people came reverently in their Sunday
clothes to the funeral. Indeed, there is nothing
like a funeral to touch and unite the hearts of
country dwellers. They were now ashamed to re-
member their cold, unfounded criticisms and harsh
judgments, and tried to atone by speaking gracious
words of their "departed sister" and calling to
memory her unfailing kindness. Heaven forgives
much, and probably this last bungling attempt to
" do as they would be done by " was placed to their
credit. But we know there were genuine mourn-
ers there who never could forget. And others,
wearing the crape which told of their own slain,
came — it seemed the right thing to do in those
days — some of them almost envying her whose
hands were so serenely folded for the last sleep.
But Gilead had not yet paid her full share of the
" national debt." Beautiful June had not numbered
TWO LIVES FOR ONE. 229
her days before the town was thrilled with news of
another calamity. Some Union troops set to guard
a railroad, most of them Vermonters, were attacked ;
some were killed and wounded, and four hundred
were taken prisoners !
Joe Armstrong's name headed the first list, brave
Captain Bartlett, John Henry Hickey, and Vic's
brother Chester were among the prisoners, while
David Douglas and others of the Guards were
" Some things are worthless, some others so good
That nations who buy them pay only in blood,
For Freedom and Union each man owes his part,
And here I pay my share, all warm from my heart."
— Standard (Gilead, Vt.), of July, 1864.
230 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!"
" 1 ADIES, what shall we do ? " It was a reg-
J — * ular meeting of the "Soldiers' Aid," and
every woman was at work — some sewing, some
scraping lint, some rolling bandages ; but they all
paused and looked toward Mrs. Plumley with per-
plexed faces. But they had no answer to the new
appeal she had spoken of, nor the question which
" Wouldn't it be well to have the secretary read
Mrs. Davenport's letter? Perhaps all the ladies
haven't seen it," suggested Miss Hancock.
Mrs. Adams came forward, and, taking the letter
from the president's hands, read as follows : " ' I
presume you have heard before this of the condition
of our army from the presence of scurvy among the
men. Since the trying campaign opened they have
subsisted for many successive days on the rations of
the haversack alone. We must have a supply of
vegetables, says one of our major-generals, or the
results will be disastrous; and Grant's forces cannot
and must not meet such an enemy in their own
ranks. We must therefore canvass every neighbor-
hood, and gather together every peck and half-peck
of any of these vegetables that families have left,
for there is nothing of the kind in market to depend
"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE /" 231
upon. Cannot ladies canvass the towns in your
county without delay, to procure whatever can be
found of an anti-scorbutic nature — potatoes, onions,
pickles of all kinds, prepared cabbage, etc. If even
one barrel can be sent from every town it is worth
a hundred times the trouble and cash value of the
Mrs. Rollins turned her pale, severe face toward
the table. "Can we stan' many more such calls?
Does any body know when there'll be an end of
'em ? " she inquired.
" Nobody knows," replied Mrs. Plumley, sadly.
" Perhaps this will show us that we can't stop yet ; "
and Mrs. Adams took up a paper and read : " ' Pres-
ident Lincoln has issued a proclamation calling for
five hundred thousand volunteers, to be raised by
the fifth of September, or drafted immediately aft-
A low exclamation of surprise and pain ran
around the room.
Miss Hancock looked anxious. " That only
means," said she, slowly and impressively, " that
Lincoln means to bring the struggle to an end.
And there isn't one here who isn't willing to
work to the last moment for our brave boys.
We've suffered too much and too long to shirk any
thing that's necessary to be done."
" Yes ; we must work till our boys 're all dead or in
Libby Prison," said Mrs. Rollins.
" Sister Rollins, your boy and mine never
grudged what they gave to their country, and we
mustn't," said Mrs. Douglas, laying her firm, steady
hand upon her impatient, heart-broken neighbor.
232 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" My David writes from the hospital, ' Don't fret
about me, mother ; I'm no better than thousands of
the boys who were killed, and none of us 're too
good to die for our country.' "
"I'm sure we're all ready to do what's pos-
sible," said Mrs. Fletcher. " The question in my
mind is, Can we get these vegetables? We women
wouldn't hesitate a minute, but perhaps the men
wont see it as we do."
" And are they to be found any way, for love or
money? " inquired Mrs. Akers.
"There's enough!" and Martha Thompson bit
off her thread with a snap. " There's men in this
town jus' mean enough to hold and withhold to
make money. There's potatoes and turnips and
onions in many a sullar. Next thing is to get 'em
" Your vegetables or your life ! — we must make
that our motto," said Mrs. Adams.
" Gilead has shown its loyalty, as we know very
well, but if our brethren are suffering a relapse
we women must wake them up. Perhaps that's a
part of our mission," suggested Mrs. Plumley.
" That reminds me of something I found in a New
York paper. I cut it out and put it in my pocket for
your benefit," and drawing her chair to the center
of the group Miss Hancock read: "' A gentleman
on a train near New York city the other day, speak-
to a friend across the car, said, " Well, I hope the
war will last six months longer ; if it does I shall
have made enough to retire from business. In the
last six months I've made one hundred thousand
dollars. Six months more and I shall have enough."
"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 233
A lady sat behind the speaker and heard his re-
marks. When done she tapped him on the shoul-
der, and said, " Sir, I had two sons. One was killed
at the battle of Fredericksburg, the other at the
battle of Murfreesboro." She was silent a moment ;
so were all around. Then, overcome by her indig-
nation, she suddenly slapped the speculator, first on
one cheek, then on the other, and before the fel-
low could say a word the passengers sitting near,
who had witnessed the whole affair, seized him and
pushed him out of the car, as one not fit to ride
with decent people.' "
" Good ! " said Martha Thompson ; " that's good
enough to frame.' "
" We don't expect to have to deal like that with
any of our brethren who may be a little — little
stubborn," continued Miss Hancock, " but that's
the spirit we need. We've got to feel that money
is nothing along-side of life and liberty. It's the
good old Revolutionary spirit that kept our ances-
tors from drinking tea when they wanted it. We've
got to tell our men-folks that we must have these
vegetables, money or no money. They wont have
scurvy if they go without potatoes a few weeks.
Now, I'm not very strong yet, but I'm willing to go
to the men you think will be hardest to deal with.
I'll take a big wagon and some boys and baskets
and start to-morrow morning. And I move, Mrs.
President, that committees be appointed to canvass
the whole town as soon as possible."
Every woman was soon pledged to do her share
of the work, even Mrs. Rollins, who had no idea of
standing alone. She even emphasized her position
234 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
by declaring, " Not another potater nor pickle
passes my lips till new ones come in."
" Every potato saved is a potato earned. Let us
show our faith by our works," said Miss Hancock.
The loyal Gileadites of our story were still loyal
as a whole, but these days of '64 were very trying.
Every body but speculators was weary of the war.
The country was about to face another presidential
election, and as the struggle drew near parties and
factions drew farther away from each other. The
disaffected, the grumblers, and the discouraged
were approached by such men as were avowed cop-
perheads, and beset with the political arguments of
The rebellion could not be crushed ; the Northern
army had no efficient officers ; France was about to
declare war against the United States; greenbacks
were sure to become worthless ; these and similar
opinions were scattered as widely as possible by
such newspapers as were accused of being bribed
by Southern supporters. McClellan, beloved by
so many soldiers, was Lincoln's rival in the contest.
It was not strange that many honest but unfortified
judgments were bewildered by a comparatively
few leaders, who, according to the stanch, out-
spoken Standard, were " ready to perform the office
of national assassin, and plant the stiletto deep in
the vitals of the Goddess of Liberty ! " So much
for a few of the " predominating causes " which in
this case threatened to mix politics and potatoes !
But the women were thoroughly in earnest, and,
in spite of " haying," secured teams, boys, and
baskets quite sufficient for their purpose. Indeed,
"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 235
there was a surplus of boys, if any thing ; for the lit-
tle fellows were strangely impressed that it would
be " fun alive " to help fill those barrels.
Among the names given Miss Hancock were
those of Mr. Slocum, Mr. Green, and a well-to-do
old bachelor named Dunlap, who, with two spinster
sisters, lived on a large and valuable hill farm.
Our acquaintance with the gentlemen first named
makes it unnecessary to state that they were " hard
cases," but even they yielded at length to our
" Wouldn't give a pertater to any body but you,"
persisted Mr. Slocum. " But 's I tell my wife you've
been down there to nuss, 'nd I cal'late we'll need such
sarvice some day. We're all more or less likely to
get sick. Don't ye see we be ? "
In the afternoon she seated herself in Mr. Fletch-
er's " mill wagon," with several baskets around her,
and two boys, Johnnie Clark and Baxter Bartlett,
on the front seat to drive the old gray horse.
Having called upon two or three rather inaccessible
women, from whom she received a supply of pickles,
she told the boys to drive on to Mr. Dunlap's.
" 'Spect to get any thin' there ? " asked Johnnie.
" Certainly !" was the undaunted reply; where-
upon the two boys exchanged skeptical glances.
Mr. Dunlap had in some way learned that the
women were " taking the town," and as rapidly as
possible he was " sorting over," as he called it, his
potatoes, of which he had a fine supply. Into one
barrel he threw the small and imperfect ones, while
into several others he tossed the large ones which
he intended to hide from all prying feminine eyes.
236 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
While he was still sweating over his task in the
security of the cellar he heard a light footstep on
the stairs, and looked up to meet Miss Hancock's
"Well done, Mr. Dunlap ; your sister told me I
would find you here. These are beauties ! " and she
took up the big, white specimens from the barrel.
" The very best potatoes I've seen to-day. And it
isn't every man that takes the pains to pick out all
the little ones. Come, boys, bring down your
"I — I — didn't mean — a man must look out for
his own first," stammered the perspiring bachelor.
" Yes, our own poor boys ! how often I think of
them, sick and wounded on battle-fields and in hos-
pitals. I don't wonder you feel that nothing is too
good for them. If ever we ought to live on hasty
pudding and milk it is just now while they are suf-
fering for vegetables. You'll have a sweet reward
for this, Mr. Dunlap. Here, boys ! " and, with her
back turned toward the small potatoes, Miss Han-
cock waved them toward the other barrels, and Mr.
Dunlap, rubbing his soiled hands upon his over-
alls, actually helped the little fellows, until four
bushel baskets were full to the brim. Johnnie and
Baxter opened their eyes very wide as they de-
posited them in the wagon, but said nothing.
Miss Hancock thanked the bewildered and some-
what exasperated donor, assured him of a " blessed re-
ward," and was soon driving on toward a big yellow
house with a small colony of barns, which crowned
the next hill. As the old horse slowly jogged along
the quiet road Johnny turned around and drawled :
"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 237
" Miss Hancock — I — don't — b'lieve — Ben Dun-
lap ever meant them p'taters for us."
" No, dear ; not for us. They are for the poor
suffering soldiers," said she.
The shrewd little Yankee, who knew the reputa-
tion of the old bachelor very well, looked toward
Baxter with a knowing smile, and asked him in a
low tone if he could " see through a hole in the
wall with his eyes shut."
The town was quite thoroughly canvassed before
night, and as a result nine barrels of vegetables of
various kinds, with several jars of pickles, were
shipped the following day.
The necessity for exertion and these extra calls
for supplies were a blessing beyond measure to
those who had been so sorely bereaved. Some had
farms and families to care for, while others were
able to devote themselves almost wholly to the
Poor Vic, who was nearly frantic in her grief over
Joe's death, clung to Esther and refused to be com-
forted. She had lived the last year— a year of won-
derful transformation — on the hope of his return ;
for her richest reward was to be his pleasure in
what she had done. " It wouldn't seem so hard,
Esther," she moaned, " if he could have just come
home to see what we have done, and if he could
know how sorry I am for the way I used to do
things. O, my poor Joe ! "
" No, Vic ; not poor Joe, for he's better off; you
know that. What if he had been shot before he
became a Christian, and before you were one ? Just
think, Vic, how much you have to be thankful for,"
238 THE GILEAD GUAFDS.
Esther said, forcing her own blighted hopes into
the background in her new character of comforter.
" O, I know it, but I don't feel it. I pray with
my lips, but in my heart I almost hate God for taking
Joe. He could have saved him so easy, and he
was worth saving."
Vic was leaning back in her large rocker, and the
face which lay against the " finished tidy " was thin-
ner and paler than when we saw it last. That day
had revived her agony by bringing back to her the
last letter she sent her husband. A comrade had
sent it, writing her that it had been the only clew to
his identification. It had been in his breast pocket,
and was deeply stained with blood from the fatal
" Perhaps you ought to be thankful he was shot
instead of being taken prisoner," said Esther, dream-
ily. " They are suffering such tortures at Libby
and Andersonville. The paper says that more than
a hundred are buried every day at Andersonville.
Mother thinks Austin is there, it is so long since we
heard from him ; father thinks he's dead. It's
dreadful not to know."
" Poor Chester is somewhere in one of these
horrid places if he is alive," said Vic. " I ought
not to forget him. Isn't it strange that we can be
so full of trouble that we can't think of things. I
don't know what baby would have done those first
few days if Frank hadn't taken care of her — and he
feeling as bad as he could over Joe and Chester, too.
It didn't seem as if I could do anything; but I
must — I must for baby's sake."
" Don't you think we could help get something
"YOUR VEGETABLES OR YOUR LIFE!" 239
ready for the wounded soldiers?" suggested
Esther. "You know you'll have lots of blackber-
ries up in your pasture, and blackberry cordial is one
of the things they want. Mrs. Plumley has the rule
for making it. I'll help pick them after school
every afternoon, and I'm sure we can do the rest,
" Well, perhaps," said Vic, wearily. "I'm going
to try not to be selfish."
And the weak, helpless men who received that
cordial, spoonful by spoonful, never knew it was
made by two heroic women in the backwoods of
Vermont, who, in an effort to benefit them, had
themselves received more than they gave.
240 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
PERHAPS the kindly side of New England
character was never shown more clearly than
in the case of soldiers' families. Especially were
the widows and orphans of those slain in battle ac-
cepted as a sort of sacred legacy by the general
public. The war debt might be discussed in the
post-office, and political feeling run high ; but as the
nine o'clock bell rang, and men filed away to their
homes, they did not forget to take mail or groceries
to some lonely woman.
Abram was still active in this department, start-
ing many a little wave of interest in behalf of the
needy which was never traced back to him. Hiel
Saunders, too, was a faithful member of the home-
guard, and so developed by the services of his
benevolence as to bring upon him Martha Thomp-
son's criticism, who declared that " Hiel wasgettin'
rather soft," which term in Gilead was not alto-
gether complimentary. Perhaps Martha ventured
that remark after she noticed his interest in Mrs.
Follinsbee's welfare. This poor little widow, with
her three fatherless children, had seemed to have a
special claim upon Hiel after the night she heard
of her husband's death. He had taken her many an
opportune gift, and succeeded in chopping her fire-
HI EL'S EXPERIENCE. 241
wood by doing it very secretly sometime between
sunset and sunrise. She had been alarmed to find
a fresh supply, and told some neighbors she could
not explain it, "unless Hiram had come back;"
hearing which, Hiel remarked, somewhat tartly, that
it was " a good, sensible thing for a ghost to du,
but as Hiram wasn't no great hand to saw wood
while he was here, seems 's if he wouldn't be apt to
du it now." Mrs. Follinsbee had read to him the
last letters she received from her husband, and was
humbly grateful for his sympathetic interest ; but
meanwhile he had become more interested in her
than in the letters. His knowledge of the demands
of custom was Very limited ; hence, without consult-
ing any book of etiquette, he resolved to win her
regard as soort as possible by a judicious and gener-
ous oversight of her interests. Acting upon this
resolution he selected a variety of vegetables one
day in early September, packed them in a large
basket, adding a sprinkling of pink-cheeked harvest
apples, and took them to her gate on his way to
mill with the squire's grist. Tommy and Alice
and little Hiram came running toward him, looking
with curious eyes upon these prospective riches.
"O, ma! come see what's been brung," cried
Tommy ; and seizing her dress he dragged her to
the door. " Now we can have somethin' but
" Well, you've robbed yourself, I know, Mr.
Saunders," said Mrs. Follinsbee, her face reddening
with pleasure. "You really shouldn't bring me so
"I didn't know but what they might come ac-
242 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
ceptable, seein' ye have so many mouths to feed,"
he replied, removing his big straw hat.
" O, yes ! " and there was a little catch in her
voice, just a hint of the need that made them more
than " acceptable ; " " but I don't like to have folks
put themselves out for me."
"No put out at all, Mis' Follinsbee ; I've got
more sass than I know what to du with. My little
farm yields like all possessed — makes me feel 's if I
must put up a house 'n' have sullar room for it ; "
and Hiel leaned against the rude railing which kept
the children from falling, with his eyes fixed upon
"Why don't you, then ? " asked the widow, inno-
Hiel's heart began to beat tumultuously, but he
recognized his opportunity.
" I will, if you'll come 'n' live in it ; " and then
with increasing courage he went on : " I thought
I'd just let ye know how I feel about it, fer I can't
bear tu see ye sort of strugglin' with adverse fate, so
to speak; and if you agree I'll make things real
easy. I'll build a house with a bay winder 'n' a
piazza; 'n' if you want posies out in front, why,
have 'cm ! I don't care ; " and Hiel ventured a
glance at the blushing face in the door-way, feeling
that he had made a good, generous offer which no
woman could refuse.
But to his surprise she began to cry, saying, be-
tween her sobs, " O, I can't, I can't ! It's temptin'
— nobody knows how hard 'tis for a woman to get
along when she hasn't any thing to do with — and I
like you real well ; but I can't marry a man that's
Ill EL'S EXPERIENCE. 243
an unbeliever ; no, no ; I cannot ! " and then the
little woman sought her rocking-chair just inside the
door and strove to put away the temptation. But
the tempter followed her.
" O, sho, now ! " ejaculated Hiel, distressed be-
yond measure. " I ain't no unbeliever. Ever hear
o' my lyin', stealin', or killin' any body?"
" No, no ! not that ; but you don't go to meetin',
and I'm afraid you don't believe the Bible. I want
to bring up the children to be good."
Hiel suddenly felt the weight of a crushing re-
sponsibility, and looked at innocent little Tommy
and Alice, now serenely munching apples, as though
he saw them for the first time. Very humbly he
said, " May be I could jine the church, you know."
Mrs. Follinsbee raised her flushed face with a
startled look. " O, Hiel! I don't want you to join
the church until you're converted. That wouldn't
m ike any difference. If you was a Christian I'd
know it, and I wouldn't look at any thing else. I'm
not a very good one myself — I make a good many
crooked paths ; but I wouldn't dare to marry a man
that wasn't tryin' to walk with me."
Hiel drew a long sigh. " I'd never interfere with
ye in any way, shape, or manner. I'd go to
meetin' and stay in to prayers in the mornin'."
She almost laughed. " Bless your heart, you'd
have to pray yourself! But I don't want no man
to get religion on my account. You want it because
you need it to live by and die by. So now I've
had my say. Temptin' as you make it, with a new
house and all, I can't listen. I think I've done
244 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
Hiel flung himself away in a rage, but she was
not angry. It might have been better if she could
have had that energizing experience ; but instead
she sat and cried until the little ones gathered
around and lifted up their voices in bitter lamenta-
tion. She saw before her a lonely, impoverished
life, a long struggle with the world, which oftenest
presented itself to her discouraged soul as a huge
monster with a special spite against women, and the
prospect was appalling. But, nevertheless, her con-
science was dominant. Perhaps the time will come
when such natures are rare, but New England nurt-
ured many in the early generations; undeveloped
and untrained, perchance, but as true to their con-
victions of right, as self-denying, as the best of their
Puritan ancestry. Whatever modern materialism
and criticism may say upon the subject, it was that
religious element, true and tough, which gave New
England character its peculiar charm, and stamped
it unmistakably as
" Law and goodness, love and force,
Wedded fast beyond divorce.".
Such a character thinks much of its own ap-
proval, and so in the midst of her desolation, beset
by her womanly fears and weakness, our friend was
able to endure because she " thought she had done
Meanwhile Hiel lashed the horses on through the
village and down " mill hill," the same road which
Abram had taken on his memorable ride. Men
looked after him in surprise, and Barstow, who hap-
pened to be in the store door, called out to him,
HIEL'S EXPERIENCE. 245
and then muttered : " Wonder what's riled up Hiel,
anyhow. Never knew him to 'buse squire's horses
before." The hill was steep, and Hiel drew the
frightened creatures back upon their haunches and
sawed their bits furiously, then whipped them again
as they reared and tossed their heads. He swore
at them, too, and that was what brought him to his
senses, for swearing was not allowed in his creed of
morality. He looked around in a half-frightened
way, but no one was near. The mill was left be-
hind, and he had come into the cool level river road,
bordered by woods, and full of the charming tints
and quiet sounds of the approaching autumn, be-
fore he succeeded in stopping the horses. Then,
very much astonished and ashamed of himself, he
crawled over the front of the wagon like a weak
old man, and began to pat their wet flanks. They
looked at him with dilated eyes and quivering nos-
trils, inquiring as well as they could if this was
indeed their old friend Hiel. He plucked green
leaves from the trees and fed them, then let them
pull down branches for themselves while he clam-
bered back to his seat to " think it over." He had
never cared for any one as he cared for this over-
worked, sorrowful little woman ; and, being a far-
seeing man, he had supposed she would feel thank-
ful to accept his proffer of home and fortune.
" Je-whitiker ! " he ejaculated ; " if she thinks I
aint 's good 's Hi Follinsbee she's mistakened.
He wasn't wuth a tow-string fer business ; couldn't
save any more'n a sieve. Women must be fools
any way!" But Hiel knew very well that her
simple refusal would not have aroused such a
246 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
temper-tempest as he had passed through. It was
the reason she gave. "Ay! there's the rub!"
Because he wasn't a Christian she couldn't marry
him ! He had, so far as Gilead air was favorable,
cultivated the " idea " which is cherished by thou-
sands of men : ' Some Christians are full of faults ; I
have but few faults ; therefore, I am better than
some Christians.' To be sure, he was a red-haired,
weak-eyed, country-bred logician, but logic does
not dictate as to the color of the hair or strength
of the eyes. He was a true disciple of comparison,
with an honest admiration for consistency ; but for
some reason his creed gave him no comfort now.
He was enraged at that, at himself, at the truth,
which sometimes has a way of turning and looking
at men as Christ looked at Peter, which is very un-
pleasant. The terrible oath he had uttered seemed
to take shape and mock his discomfiture, and as
he turned the horses slowly toward the mill he mur-
mured : " If a man was like corn, now, 'n' could be
put in the hopper 'n' groun' up fine, may be he'd
come out good fer somethin'." Wherein it may be
seen that Hiel had found a weak place in his
That very evening Hiel sought Abram, and
having enticed him into the barn, where they could-
lean against a fragrant hay-mow, with the moonlight
slanting through wide open doors, he found courage
to ask counsel.
" You told me yerself to come if I ever got into
a scrape," said he.
"I haven't forgotten," replied Abram, cordially.
" I don't pass a day but I think of your kindness
HI EL'S EXPERIENCE. 247
and patience; and sometimes I've wondered if you
ever regretted lending me the money."
" Never; not a mite! If I'd put in with Slocum
'n' his son-in-law a-spee'latin' may be I'd 'a' got
neck-deep in meanness. 'Stead o' that I've made
fairly well, I take it. I've lent government a few
hundred. Squire says there's no question but
she'll pay up one o' these days; 'n' then I bought
that piece o' land, you know. Squire didn't want me
to leave, so he let me have it cheap, 'n' it's powerful
good land, too. But I didn't come to talk money-
to-night, 'n' you can't guess within ten rows o'
apple-trees what I du want."
And then, having found a stick to whittle, Hiel
related the episode of the afternoon. Abram was
both surprised and amused ; but, being appealed to
for advice, replied:
" Why, I think, in the first place, that you were in
too great a hurry. It was only the first of June
that Hiram was shot, not quite four months ago."
But Hiel shook his head.
" Hiram 'd been away two years. Don't ye forgit
that. It aint 's if he'd died here to home. And
she never said a word about bein' too sudden.
That don't trouble me none, but it's the other thing
— the bein' or not bein' a Christian."
"Well, Hiel," said Abram, soberly, "you know
very well that you ought to be one, for you aren't
a heathen. And I've often thought you must be a
Christian at heart, you're always so ready to do
Again Hiel shook his head.
" That's what I thought myself up to this morn-
24S THE G I LEAD GUARDS,
in', but I know better now. I'd give a hundred
dollars this minute if I knew jest what to do."
"Why don't you ask the minister?" inquired
" O, he's too young," responded Hiel, in a de-
spondent tone. " He's well meanin', but I should
scare him — I know I should. If 'twas Mr. Phelps I
" Why not go to the old minister then ?"
Hiel squinted along the edge of the stick he held,
and drew a long breath. " You see how 'tis, Abram,
he uses lots of long words, good words, too, but I 've
no idee of the dictionary meanin'. What if he
sh'd ask me if I was predestinated to be elected ? I
couldn't say one word, 'cause I don't know. It
would tangle me all up, sure 's you live, Abram,"
said Hiel, in a changed tone. "Couldn't you jest
tell me how to git started ? Seems to me I'd ought
to know ; but I declare to you it's jest 's dark 's that
corner over there beyond the moonshine."
" Yes, of course I can ;" and Abram's voice grew
tender with his theme. " If you mean that you want
to be a Christian — not so you can marry Mrs. Fol-
linsbee — but because it is the right thing to do — "
" Yes, sir ! that's what I mean ! " asserted Hiel.
" Then it's all plain. If Jesus was on earth to-
day, and you should hear that he was at the Center,
for instance, would you be satisfied to hear what he
was doing, or would you want to go and see for
" Go, of course ! "
" The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and to-day and forever ; so if you want
FUEL'S EXPERIENCE. 249
to know about him, and especially if you want to
be cured of any disease, you must do now as you
would have done then, go to him yourself and ask
him for all you need."
" That seems easy," said Hiel.
" It is easy. And remember he has promised to
save every one that comes in this way. Just tell
him you're sorry you didn't come before and con-
fess your sins, and God can't help accepting you,
because he has promised, and all his promises are
' yea and amen in Christ Jesus.' "
" Now, hold on ! I c'n go so fur — I c'n b'lieve
that things 're all fixed up strong at that end.
'Twould be an awful sin to cheat a world full o'
human bein's, 'n' I don't b'lieve he ever done it, do
you ? Now, then " — and Hiel's voice grew intense
and low — " what I want to know is how to get on
to that promise, so I c'n feel sure I'm there, 'n' he'll
see me 'n' jest 'tend to the rest of it."
" Why, Hiel, seems to me it is like this : There's
a bridge over the river between here and the vil-
lage, and you want to go across. You never think
of stopping to calculate whether you can get on the
bridge or not. You keep walking till you step on
full weight. You actually have to do it of your
own free will. Now, this promise is your bridge,
and — "
" I've got holt o' thet, 'n' don't you say another
word. I'll work this thing out — now you see ! "
And out of the barn, through the clear moonlight,
Abram watched Hiel stride away. He did " work
it out," with divine help, that very night, and it
was not long before all through the country-side
250 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
spread the news of his wonderful conversion —
" wonderful " because, within their narrow reason-
ing, this was outside the ordinary channels of spir-
itual refreshing ; but it proved the beginning of a
gracious and gentle revival which flowed like heal-
ing waters through the churches. The terrors of
battle-fields and hospitals, the oft-repeated shocks
of bereavement, the desolated homes, empty chairs,
and aching hearts, had made a place for the coming
of the Comforter.
Hiel gave himself heartily to the new phase of
existence which opened before him, finding no
weariness now in " goin' to meetin' " five nights in
a week, and his quaint, joyous testimonies were
decidedly helpful where the general tone of piety
was inclined to be distrustful.
But for several weeks Hiel made no effort to meet
Mrs. Follinsbee. With natural sensitiveness he
feared she might suspect him of hypocrisy, while she,
in turn, was equally distressed lest, having met the
conditions, he might think she looked for his return.
In due time, however, a happy combination of
circumstances enabled them to become reconciled
without serious compromise, and it was not long
before Gilead was saying, laughingly or reproach-
fully or dubiously :
" Hiel Saunders is engaged to Hi Follinsbee's
widow ! What can the man be thinking of?"
That was what Squire Fletcher asked him confi-
dentially one morning in the harvest-field.
" Why, Hiel," said he, " wife and I thought per-
haps you and Martha would make a match, and we
could keep you both."
HIEL'S EXPERIENCE. 251
" Wal, now, squire," responded Hiel, " I'm sorry
to disapp'int any body, but Marthy's tu brisk. She
never lets ye feel that there's any time to rest. I
never expect to eat no better vittles than Marthy
cooks, but I tell ye she keeps her eye on the nut-
cake pail ! Then, squire, she aint no ways han'-
some. She's jest like a Lumbardy popple — right
up 'n' down, straight 'n' scant 's you please. Now,
Mis' Follinsbee's purty, I think, 'nd when she gets
dressed up other folks '11 say so tu. She needs nice
clo'es, like any woman, 'n' I tell ye there's lots
of women that's beholden to their clo'es more 'n
you've any idee."
The squire was much amused over Hiel's ideas,
and chuckled at intervals all through the afternoon
as his eyes would fall upon a couple of Lombardy
poplars which had stood, year after year, a picture
of independent ugliness in a field near the roadside.
"Yes, that's Martha — straight and scant as you
please," he would say.
252 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
FROM THE SHADOW OF DEATH.
VIC ARMSTRONG had been up since early
morning engaged in " cleaning house." As
such work was not natural to her she was apt to
keep watch of the movements of other housekeep-
ers, and also to follow rules of domestic science laid
down in books and papers. Mrs. Stubbs, who was
governed by an intuitive knowledge something like
that which governs birds and bees, had taken up
her parlor carpet ; hence Vic had followed suit, and,
by an all-day siege, had made her chambers sweet
and clean, and put the tiny parlor into its most
cheery condition. But in opening boxes she had
come across Joe's letters in their many-hued, patri-
otic envelopes — letters he had written the first year
of enlistment ; and now, as she rested after the hard
day's work in her favorite seat between the two
trees, she held a package in her lap, reading and
crying over them. It had been one of those dreamy
autumn days when every thing wears an unreal as-
pect. The voices of men at work in the fields, the
crowing of chanticleer, the barking of a neighboring
dog, sounded as though they echoed from some
other world just outside our own. The sunset rays
were now slanting across the little " front yard " as
though loath to leave. Vic's flowers were past their
FROM THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 253
season of beauty, except some sturdy coxcombs and
asters, but along by the stone wall nodded double
rows of golden-rod — " yaller weed " the farmer folk
called it, and voted it a nuisance ; but Vic liked to
have it hide the wall, and thus far it had escaped
Frank's threatening scythe.
Little Nellie, now nearly three years old, was
gathering great bouquets of red and yellow leaves,
which, after a few weeks of gorgeous display, were
slowly fluttering to the ground. But she saw her
mother's tears and came panting through the heaped-
up leaves, with her hands full, to inquire,
" What for does mamma cry? Baby sinks papa
Joe comin' very soon."
This was the charming little sentence she had
learned long before, but now it brought no comfort.
" No, no ; papa wont come ever again ; " and,
pressing the little one close, Vic's tears fell faster.
" Nellie ask Uncle Frank ; I can find papa ; "
and wriggling away from her mother the child
trotted down the roadway, her little feet rustling
musically through the leaves. She reached a tree
which marked the limit of her journeyings, and then
paused, her hands clasped behind her back in an
old-fashioned way, her dainty little head held at one
side in a listening attitude. There was a sound of
approaching wagon-wheels, but it was not " Uncle
Frank" nor Grandpa Shaw. Clapping her hands,
she said, " Somebody come 'at baby knows ; " and
watched eagerly as the horse slowly drew near and
stopped a few feet away. The driver jumped to the
ground and carefully assisted another man — tall and
gaunt, wearing an old light-blue soldier's overcoat
254 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
— to alight. Handing him a cane and a parcel, he
turned slowly, saying, as he did so, " You'd ought ter
let me drove clear up to the door ; I wouldn't 'a'
charged a cent more, 'n' I'll bet it '11 be too much
As for little Nellie, she gave one frightened
glance, and started toward her mother.
But the man had seen her, and as he rested for
an instant upon his cane he said, in a strange,
hoarse tone, " Nellie — baby — go tell mamma —
papa's coming ! "
The little thing could not have comprehended his
meaning, but, stumbling up the slope as fast as
she could with outstretched hands, she cried, shrilly,
" Baby's sure Papa Joe's comin' very soon."
Her tone startled Vic, who sprang up from her
reverie and started toward her, saw the stranger,
and stopped again. Her heart seemed to stand
still as she watched him. Had the battle-field given
up its slain ? And then with a little cry she almost
flew over the space between them and clasped in
her arms all that she could hold of the unshaven,
threadbare, hollow-eyed soldier.
" Joe, Joe ! tell me it's truly you ? " she gasped.
And the husky voice that answered convinced
her: "Yes, Vic, poor little wife; all that's left
of me ! "
It was fortunate for both of them that the house
was near, for Joe's strength was well-nigh exhausted.
But Vic helped him over the clean hard walk be-
tween the flower-beds, into the kitchen, and on the
lounge. With trembling hands she removed cap
and coat ; got a pillow under his clear head ;
FROM THE SHADO W OF DEA TIL 255
brought water, camphor, milk — every thing she
could think of — and waited until he could speak
Reviving a little, he smiled, and said, " It was
'most too far to come — without resting — but I
And then, kissing him very softly, Vic calmed her
self to whisper, "Joe, dear, where have you been
since last June ? "
" Andersonville ; didn't you know? " he asked in
a surprised tone.
" No ; the paper said you were found, and my
letter was in your pocket," she replied.
" I handed it to Chester just before the battle.
Poor Chester! " said Joe, greatly moved.
" Never mind now. We'll talk of that by and by ; "
and Vic with rare forbearance closed her lips very
tightly. Then she brought water and gently bathed
his face and hands, brushed the long hair away from
his forehead, keeping back the cries that almost es-
caped her lips as she realized his extreme emacia-
Little Nellie drew nearer, her eyes full of wonder
and pity, and at length laid one soft little hand
upon his face. Joe drew it to his parched lips, and
tears began to roll down his sunken cheeks. But
even then, while they watched him tenderly, he fell
Frank's return was most opportune, and, allow-
ing him but one glimpse of Joe, Vic sent him with
all speed to the village for Doctor Snow and Miss
Hancock. Fortunately they both came, and by
nine o'clock Joe was in a clean bed, ready for a
256 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
night's rest, and able to smile upon them all as he
murmured, " This must be like heaven ! "
" There were two of the exchanged prisoners in
the stage to-night, somebody told me," said Miss
Hancock, as they left the room ; " but Joe must have
got a team to bring him right over from the land-
ing. Mr. Hickey happened to be in the village, and
they say he took John Henry home in Mr. Plum-
ley's carriage. One of the others was Homer Smith.
Judson Plumley was just discharged from the hos-
pital and happened to come from Washington with
them, so he took Homer home for the night. There
was a great stir over Lieutenant Plumley ; as many
as a hundred people gathered around the post-office,
I should think. O, thank the Lord that some of
our boys are coming back ! "
This was the signal for Vic's enforced calmness to
give way, and with tears and hysterical laughter she
clung to Miss Hancock, while the old doctor patted
her shoulder, and said, in very unsteady tones,
" That's right ! that's right ! Cry all you want to ;
only cry easy, so Joe wont hear."
But Joe was in- little danger of being disturbed.
His strong physique had apparently succumbed to
hardship and privation as many a feebler one had
not ; and the stupor into which he sank that night
was the prelude of other nights and days, when,
barely clinging to life, he lived over again and again
his Andersonville experience.
The home-coming of these prison-starved soldiers
had been without warning, hundreds having been
exchanged at the same time and sent as rapidly as
possible in many different directions. Hence, there
FROM THE SHADO IV OF DEA TH. 257
were many joyful, painful surprises all through the
North. The few who came to Gilead were but a
fair type of the entire company; enough could they
have been seen together in their squalid misery to
call the nation to its knees !
But we must climb the hill to witness the arrival
of another old friend.
Mrs. Hickey, whose face bore the lasting impress
of sorrow, and whose black dress told the common
story of bereavement, sat in her neat kitchen in the
early evening awaiting her husband's return from
the village, when, instead of the steady tramp of the
old horse, she caught the sound of wheels slowly
approaching the house.
" Emmeline, take a candle and see who's coming.
It can't be father, for he went horseback," said she.
The little girl was soon in the door-way, shielding
a flickering light with one hand while she peered
out into the darkness.
"Hullo, Emmie! Who d' you think I've got
for a passenger?" called her father, with a curious
Mrs. Hickey came and stood behind Emmeline,
and as she appeared a strange, reedy voice from
within the carriage called, " Mother!"
She extended her arms with an answering cry,
and the next moment gathered her bony, disreputa-
ble-looking boy to her longing heart.
" Is this the way they send you home, John
Henry?" she sobbed, when under the lamp-light of
the kitchen she saw his forlorn appearance more
fully. " O ! what have they done to you, my boy? "
And with eager, trembling hands, she drew him to
258 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
the arm-chair beside the fire, and removed his cap,
clasping him again in an ecstasy of bewilderment
" Tried to starve me, mother," said he, with a
pitiful attempt to be merry. " The rebs thought
they were doing God service by killing off Yankees,
and they actually thought they were going to pick
my bones ; but I thought I'd rather give 'em to
Vermont crows. So here I am, hungry enough to
eat the fatted calf, hoofs and all."
"Hungry! of course you are!" and upon that
Mrs. Hickey almost ran back and forth, until she
had barricaded him with all sorts of dainties.
" But why didn't you write when you was coming,
dear child ? I'm so surprised I don't know what to
do first ; " and Mrs. Hickey's strong nerves certainly
suffered strange vibrations as she hovered over him.
John Henry laughed feebly. "Why didn't I
write? I'll tell you how 'twas, mother. We didn't
have any gilt-edged paper, and the rebs kept our
rosewood writing-desks, and Uncle Sam forgot to
send postage stamps. So they just packed us
aboard the cars and sent us off to carry the news
ourselves. But, mother, the best thing you can do
for me is to put me in the bed where George and I
used to sleep, under that sun-flower bed-quilt. O,
how many times I've dreamed about it ! And, fa-
ther, if you'll help me up-stairs you may, for, hon-
estly, there's nothing about me that feels quite right,
except my tongue."
It was not long before the poor fellow was bathed
and put between clean sheets, which made him feel
" like an old aristocrat."
FROM THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 259
" O, mother ! " he groaned, fairly burdened with
luxury, " if I only knew that all the boys were as
well off ! Your heart would have ached if you had
seen them come out of Andersonville. Some of
'em couldn't get aboard the cars, they were so weak,
and so died just as they thought there was a chance
to start for home. And I tell you, we had hard
work to get poor Joe Armstrong through ; we'd
keep saying, 'Just a few days more and you'll see
Vic and the baby ; ' and that, with the food they
gave us on the way, was all that kept him alive."
" Now, John Henry," interposed his father, in the
tone he had used when his children were young,
"you stop talking to-night, and when you get
rested you shall tell the whole story. We want to
hear it bad enough, but not to-night. Don't forget
to thank the Lord for bringin' you safe home."
"No, sir; but, mother, just one thing more:
will you get up a boiled dinner to-morrow, with
plenty of cabbage and beets, and a pudding? "
" Yes, yes, any thing you want," they responded,
and then left him, but not alone, for Mrs. Hickey
sat by the kitchen fire through the night, stealing
up to his room every half hour, fearful lest starva-
tion and exposure would yet rob her of her boy.
And here, too, intense joy was mingled with grief;
for the mother could not forget, as she watched
through the dark, silent hours, that she had sent
two stalwart sons away in their new blue " regiment-
als " and only one had returned !
It was a strong faith which could still sing, " Free-
dom is worth all this and more."
We may as well state just here that that " boiled
200 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
dish" proved an almost fatal enjoyment to our poor
soldier-boy. After the manner of New England
housekeepers, Mrs. Hickey cooked a large quantity
of corned beef, pork, and all kinds of vegetables,
setting away the portion which remained after din-
ner for another meal. But John Henry knew where
the pantry was; and with his ravenous hunger un-
satisfied he waited only until the rest of the family
chanced to be employed elsewhere to descend upon
that platter and capture a good part of its contents.
But it was impossible to make up a two years' lack
of "boiled dishes " in one day, and our " forager"
paid the penalty of his rashness by terrible suffer-
ing. Doctor Adams and Miss Hancock united
their human skill, and poor Mrs. Hickey watched
incessantly until the danger was averted ; but John
Henry was reduced to " spoon victuals" for several
weeks in consequence, much to his disgust.
Great interest was felt in the experiences of these
liberated captives, and a pathetic blending of curi-
osity and loving sympathy brought visitors from far
and near to gaze upon them.
John Henry told his father that he was neglect-
ing a rare opportunity to amass a fortune in not
charging an admission fee ! As the evenings grew
long, and gathered harvests brought leisure to the
farmers, he had a chance to tell his story again and
again — a story which could have been duplicated
by thousands. But with the hope and promise of
a better South and a better North, we need not
recall it, only as a warning against national sins
which bring bitter punishments and demand price-
THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 261
THE RAID AND A RAIDER.
" W 7 ELL, father, I guess you wont laugh about
V V the raiders any more, for they've cleaned
out the St. Albans banks in fine style," said Benjie
Steele one fine October evening on his return from
"You don't say so ! " exclaimed Mr. Steele.
" Yes, sir; there's more 'n two columns here from
a Burlington paper."
" I've told you all along that the rebels would
come 'round by way of Canada ! Now I guess
you'll be ready to put locks on the outside doors ; "
and Mrs. Steele turned from the cupboard, where
she had just deposited the last " supper dish," with
a look of mild reproach.
But Mr. Steele only laughed. " O, now, mother,"
said he, " the raiders wont trouble us. They may
try the bank — I don't say they wont — but they'll
let us alone."
" Unless they want horses ; I heard they stole
some up on the border," said Abram.
" Read what you have there, Benjamin, and to-
morrow I'll see to the doors and board up the hen-
Mr. Steele, with his good-natured trust in hu-
manity, was evidently unwilling to believe that the
262 THE G1LEAD- GUARDS.
gaunt hand of war could reach the Green Mount-
ains, and listened with a sort of incredulous sur-
prise as Benjie read : " The raiders had been in the
village for several days. They had been at the
different hotels, and citizens had noticed the well-
dressed, well-armed strangers with some curiosity.
On Wednesday, at half past three o'clock, they sta-
tioned a patrol on the streets, and then in parties
of five or six descended upon the three banks in the
village. At one they held their pistols to the heads
of the teller and one of the directors, making them
swear an oath of allegiance to the Southern Con-
federacy, and taking $73,500. At another the band
introduced themselves as Confederate soldiers, and
cleaned the bank of $85,000, shutting the cashier
and another man into the vault when they left the
bank. The third bank lost $52,000." Then fol-
lowed an account of persons who had been shot,
and of the pursuit ; of the arrival of re-enforcements,
the departure of the raiders, etc. An editorial note
stated that the border counties were getting well
under arms and forming military companies for pro-
tection against further raids. Returned soldiers and
citizens were alike enlisting for this service.
A few days later official news was received warn-
ing the people to expect these incursions of " rebels
and skedaddlers from Canada," and to allow no
stranger at farm-house or on the highway. Gilead,
having a bank, was morally sure of a visit, and pre-
pared to receive it. Every road, the river and its
bridges, were put under guard, and woe to the man
who couldn't give an account of himself !
To a few ardent young souls like Benjie the whole
THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 263
affair was an episode apparently arranged for their
express benefit, a grand opportunity to prove their
The post of duty assigned to our young friend
was not, however, exactly what he would have
chosen, being what was called " the old road " lead-
ing over the hill pasture of their own farm. It had
long since been abandoned for the more easily trav-
eled valley road, but there were still grass-grown
ruts discernible between encroaching trees and un-
derbrush, holding a possibility for horseback riders
or wary footmen.
It was a dark night, with a lonesome wind telling
ghost-stories in the tree-tops, when he was first called
into service ; but Benjie shouldered his rifle like a
veteran and marched up the hill. One of the neigh-
bors was stationed within hallooing distance, but
Benjie thought, incidentally, it would have been a
good plan if they could have been nearer each other.
He carried a lantern and matches for an emergency,
for which he felt quite ready after walking stealthily
back and forth two or three hours, listening intently
for raiders. The nervous strain was greater than he
had expected, and the power of imagination invested
the familiar landscape with grotesque creations, ap-
parently as real as every-day companions. A book
of Grecian history had fallen into Benjie's hands a
short time before, and, with a fine scorn for the
visionary and fantastic, he had called the old Greeks
" a set of simpletons ! " But to-night, watching the
wind-swayed branches, they became warning, be-
seeching hands, with a personality behind them ;
and an oddly broken and parti-colored stump be-
264 THE CI LEAD' GUARDS.
came in the starlight a man with a contemplative
air, just ready to impart his wisdom to some kin-
dred mind ; and our young philosopher decided
that under some circumstances it would not be dif-
ficult to people a world with beings neither human
nor divine !
And the noises ! Who could explain them? A
dead limb fell with a thud a few rods away; then,
snap, snap ! twigs were breaking in a thicket like
the click of many rifles. Then the wind swept over
the hill, and Benjie was sure it held the echo of
horses' hoofs, and somehow the comical side of
"watching for raiders" suffered a total eclipse just
But at length a sound different from any of these
smote his ear and set his heart to thumping wildly.
It was a something quite as large as a man — as large
as several men, he thought — advancing deliberately
and stealthily. Waiting until he heard the bushes
near by parting and cracking on either side, he
shouted, " Halt ! " There was an instant of intense
" Give your name and the countersign, or I fire ! "
There was no response to this, but instead what
sounded to Benjie like a snort of derision, and he
He also " hallooed," and retreated rapidly toward
the open field; but as the "something" crashed
away through the bushes and down the hill there
was a significant " Mo-o-o ! " which sufficiently re-
vealed the personality of that intruder !
When neighbor Hiller appeared Benjie ex-
plained the report by saying that he " guessed he
THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 265
got nervous, but he really thought the rebels were
coming through the woods."
" Don't wonder ! " exclaimed the honest farmer,
sympathetically, " the woods 're full of the most
outlandish noises I ever heard. The rabbits and
squirrels seem to be havin' a picnic out my way,
and if I didn't know better I should say there was
somethin' 's big as a bear among the hemlocks."
Benjie was greatly relieved to find so congenial a
spirit, and shared his lunch with him, much to their
mutual benefit. The rest of the night passed with-
out adventure, for the spell of fear was broken ; but
Benjie had learned his lesson. It was some time,
however, before he told the story of his fright and
old Brindle's narrow escape.
Abram was stationed at the bridge between farm
and village that night. He had known that his
"beat" would be less lonely than Benjie's, and sug-
gested changing with him ; but Mr. Steele had
said, " No, no ! let Benjamin try his pluck in the
pastur'. He's too hot-headed to stan' on the
During the evening there was the usual travel to
and from the village, and the neighbors — kind
souls ! — did not forget the past as they recognized
Abram in his new character.
" Don't get lonesome to-night. John Henry says
picket duty is rather scary sometimes," said Mr.
"Always thought you'd be a soldier ever sence
you talked up so smart about it," called Mr. Slo-
cum ; "but them that fight an' runs away lives to
fight another day; don't you know they do? "
266 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
And another shouted back above the rattling of
his wagon, " The watch up our way come pretty
nigh shootin' my woman las' night. She was out
huntin' up her geese after dark, 'n' when she come
back drivin' of 'em, the feller got scairt 'n' fired.
Didn't know so much 's a goose, he didn't. So
now don't you fire at no woman ! Haw, haw ! "
and turning about on his seat he slapped the reins
and drove off rapidly, still laughing.
The last straggler was a returned soldier — poor
fellow ! — who had learned to love whisky all too
well while in the army. He came across the bridge
— not quite steadily — in his light blue cape-over-
coat, which could always be recognized so far away
in those days, and drawled, " Give my love to the
Johnnies, Abram, and tell 'em I'd 'a' been on hand
to meet 'em if I hadn't got to have the sha-shakes
to-night. Give us yer hand, and mind you don't
show the white — white feather, Abram, and let 'em
slip through your fingers." And away he went
trolling a camp song ; brave to meet rebels, but a
coward, alas ! before his worst enemy.
And so the last one crossed the bridge, and all
along the river a heavy white fog hung like a cold
pall, gradually reaching out over the valley and cov-
ering the lonely sentinels.
Then Abram, as he paced back and forth, ex-
claimed bitterly to himself, " And this ' mimicry of
war 'is all I can expect ! Others can die and wear
martyrs' crowns, but I must live and wear a fool's
His was, as has before been stated, a long-en-
during nature, strong to bear disappointment, and
THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 267
able to keep it out of sight ; but there were times
when the old rebellious nature asserted itself. And
then he loathed the close economy and small de-
ceptions he was practicing. Even the fact that his
obligation to Hiel was nearly canceled gave small
comfort at such times. What did it all amount to?
His father and mother mourned over Austin as one
dead. He was a hero and almost a saint. His
photograph, the few letters that had reached them,
with articles of clothing and his books, had been
laid away with plenty of rose-leaves in a trunk by
themselves as sacred relics. And when, stung by
some unjust word, Abram was tempted to tear
away this halo that surrounded the "soldier-boy"
his heart invariably relented. " I can't do it.
Father and mother think he's all right, and I'll
never undeceive them," he would say, and set his
face steadfastly toward some duty, thus working
his way past temptation. But this temptation was
gradually losing its power, for there was an increas-
ing tenderness in his own heart toward his brother
as time seemed to ratify the theory of his death.
The face that had lain close to his own so many,
many nights through childhood and boyhood would
sometimes suddenly appear, and, looking again
into the willful, mischievous eyes — but always
honest eyes — he would whisper, " It's all a mistake,
Tony ; a terrible mistake ! " Tony was the name
he had given his brother when they were little fel-
lows, and it had been years since he had used
it. But now that the silence of mystery and
probable death had fallen between them it often
recurred to him, and with it returned the half-
268 I'll E G1LEAD GUARDS.
protecting, half-patronizing feeling which older
Truly, death is a wonderful peacemaker, and
there is divine wisdom in the separation which
makes it possible for good people, who don't al-
ways agree, to lose the bitterness of old animosi-
ties before they meet in the beyond. If an entire
circle of relatives or friends was removed at the
same time, it would need all the sweetness of
heaven to tone down the discordant elements and
unravel the misunderstandings ; but, as it is, death
touches them one by one ; and when old antag-
onists finally come together they will probably
have to stop and inquire " the cause of that little
disturbance down in earth." All of which leads
the logical mind to ask, " If these things weigh so
little in the world of true weights and measures,
why do we allow them to torment and wound us so
here ? "
But Abram, pacing back and forth on the bridge,
was not troubled by a single thought of bitterness
or revenge toward his brother. It was a new
temptation which used the old form of expression
against the old annoyances. The new temptation
She had returned, after graduating " with honor,"
and, to his dismay, he found she was just as dear
as ever. She had come with all her added gifts and
graces, but was as far from his worshipful eyes, ap-
parently, as the topmost peak of the Green Mount-
ains. She had joined the choir again, as though
there had been no interim ; but in the gallery, as
every-where else, she met him with a studied cour-
THE RAID AND A RAIDER. 269
tesy which was almost as edifying as it was humili-
ating. And then, just as he had decided to make
her hear his story and do him justice, came a
dapper little lieutenant who walked with a cane !
He sang with Ruby, he rode horseback with her,
and limped into church beside her; and Gilead
whispered and nodded, as humdrum country places
will, and reported that " it was settled ! " All this
was gall and wormwood to Abram. Every smile
she bestowed upon the stranger, the gentle defer-
ence with which she moderated her step to his, the
expression she threw into " Blest be the tie that
binds," he noticed and interpreted in accordance
with his own fears. And so, as he considered the
matter that night — and the raiders did not interfere
with his train of thought — he decided to leave
Gilead as soon as he could make his arrangements
to do so. Having made this conclusion, he was
quite willing to see the fog assume a lighter hue —
the first token of a new day — as he repeated to
himself the old couplet, of which many repetitions
had made him rather fond :
" When all the blandishments of life are gone
The coward sneaks to death, the brave lives on."
Objects nearby were now perceptible, and he saw
that he could soon leave his post, when he heard
the sound of footsteps coming from the village, ac-
companied by a whistled tune. It was " The Vacant
Chair," and Abram's first thought was that no rebel
would whistle that tune. Nevertheless, he leveled
his rifle and cried, " Halt ! " as the figure of a man
270 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" Whatever !" said a wondering voice ; and then,
" O, yes! you're guarding the old bridge! Well,
I'm the 'prodigal son' returning to my father's
house, and the countersign is, ' E plurrbus unum.' "
Something in the voice caused Abram to lower his
"What's your name? " he inquired.
For answer a tall soldier advanced with the cry,
" Abram ! I believe it's you ! " and the next mo-
ment, with an answering cry of "Austin!" the
two brothers met each other.
" Only your left hand to shake with ! is that so?"
asked Abram, huskily.
"Yes, or I would have sent you word ; for I got
your letter three months ago, Abram, and, old fel-
low, how could you stand it ? "
RUBY'S HERO. 271
ABRAM halted in the road and faced his brother.
"Then you never took that money? It was
a lie, was it ?" he asked.
" Of course 'twas a lie ! Did you think one of
father's boys would steal? I knew nothing about
it till I got your letter," replied Austin, his face
quivering with excitement.
Abram drew a long breath, and straightened him-
self, as though a burden had been lifted.
"All right! now take my arm and tell me about
it as we walk home."
"It's a long story, Abram, but I'll tell you what
I can. You see I've been on the go ever since I
enlisted. And I got careless about writing, and
about other things. Some of my letters were prob-
ably lost — yours were, I know — and sometimes
there were weeks when we couldn't hear from
home. Well, you can't understand it, but it's the
easiest thing in the world to learn to play cards and
drink and smoke and cut up generally when the
other fellows are doing it. And so I didn't like to
think much about father and mother, and kept put-
ting off writing, even when I might have done it.
But when we got down in the Shenandoah Valley
with Sheridan we got a big mail one day, and
272 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
among other things was your letter. When I read
it I thought I couldn't wait to see you. But before
I could write, even, we met the rebs about six miles
" And was that where you lost your arm ? " asked
" Yes ; a shell struck a tree close by, glanced, and
took it off before you could say ' Jack Robinson ! '
I was badly hurt in other ways, and of course it
was some time before they got me on an ambulance.
They started for Harper's Ferry, but I couldn't stand
it, so what should they do but leave me at a regu-
lar secesh house — a big stone mansion beside the
road ! Well, they took me into the attic, and laid
me on some boards, and set a boy to watching me.
I'd have died there, sure, but one day a lady, a
friend of that family, happened to find out about
me, and she sent a straw bed and four negroes to lift
me on to it. Then she drove four miles for a doctor
— didn't dare send any body — and when I got a lit-
tle better she had me moved to her home, and took
care of me till I got well."
" There's one Christian woman down South, I
know," said Abram, warmly.
" O, there's lots of them, I dare say," continued
Austin, " only the war has rather upset the ' golden
rule ' part of their religion. But I'll never forget
that woman; no, sir! May be I was there a month,
and then I started for Washington. And now the
strangest part of the whole story happened. You
see I went to a hospital one day to see some of the
boys I knew, and while I was wandering through
one of the wards with the surgeon I heard some-
RUBY'S HERO. 273
body speak my name ; and there, out in the corner,
was a regular scarecrow of a fellow waving his hand
for me to come. I went, and there was Charlie
Williams, one of the boys that used to be in Web-
ber's with me ! He got hold of me with his bony
hands, and says he, ' We stole that money, Dick
and I, and when Webber caught us we swore it on
to you because you'd got away, and we thought he
couldn't get you.' Then he went on to tell how
Dick was killed in battle, and how he'd got to die,
and hoped I'd forgive him, and all that. Of course I
had to. I wouldn't have known what he meant if I
had not received your letter. But I wanted some
proof, so I wrote out what he had said, and he had
just strength enough to sign it, and the nurse signed
" Thank the Lord ! " ejaculated Abram.
" Perhaps we might as well," said Austin, soberly,
" though I hadn't looked at it in that light. But of
course I couldn't come home then, until I'd seen L.
Webber & Co. ; so I went to Boston and just faced
the old gentleman, and he forked over that thou-
sand dollars with interest for two years at ten per
cent. Yes, sir ! And when I told him I though the'd
been driving a pretty sharp bargain, taking a thou-
sand dollars, when the boys stole only a few hun-
dred, he owned right up that he might have, since
he never knew just how much they took! But he
begged pardon and smoothed it over as well as he
could, and of course there was nothing more to be
done. So then I went to Uncle Austin's, and they
made quite an ado over me. I'd sent him my pay
at different times, and he has it invested for me, so
274 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
I'm not quite as badly off as that other prodigal
son, though I've done enough to make my elder
brother despise me, I suppose."
" No," said Abram, with a smile ; " I think you've
done what you could to set matters right ; but — "
" I think I know what you mean. There are
other things," interrupted Austin.
" Yes, there are other things," said Abram, " but
we wont speak of them, for it is daybreak now, and
we're almost home. Father's got the kitchen fire
started, and I dare say he's just ready to crawl out
to the barn to see if the horses and cattle have rested
well. Yes, there he comes ! Now, Austin, be a
little cautious; it's a big surprise, you know."
But Austin had never been famous for caution,
and, swinging his cap above his head, he sprang
toward the door with a " Good-morning, father !"
and just then the first sunshine struck across the
valley and rested upon the old farm-house.
The story of Austin Steele's return spread like
wild-fire, and with it went the story of Abram's sac-
rifice. Gilead opened its eyes and drew in its
under-lip as it remembered its " cold shoulders,"
hard speeches, and unjust accusations ; but if you
imagine that it hastened to beg his pardon you do
•not yet understand human nature. Instead it as-
sumed a jovial expression and said: "Glad you've
come out top o' the heap, Abram ; we always thought
you would ! "
This was Gilead in the abstract ; but there were a
goodly number who felt more than a common inter-
est, and who could appreciate something of the
struggle he had passed through. These gave him so
RUBY'S HERO. 275
much of admiration and sympathy as to be almost
embarrassing. Hiel Saunders was among the first
to rejoice, as Abram sought him immediately, eager
to cancel the debt still remaining and to explain
every thing to the honest fellow who had served
him so faithfully.
" Wal, now, " said he, leaning against the fence,
his face glowing with satisfaction, " I couldn't 've
planned it neater, not if I'd tried. To have Austin
come back V tell the story himself, 'n' bring the
money! Why, Abram, he'd ought to serve you
night and day. I guess folks wont say ' coward ' no
more behind your back. Brutus 'n' Caesar 'n' Gen-
eral Grant warn't no braver;" and Hiel laughed
and grimaced, and finally laid his " greenbacks " on
a fence-post while he shook Abram 's hand. As
soon as the latter was out of sight again Hiel hung
up his hoe and started for the house, eager to tell
the good news. Ruby had been helping Martha
with the crab-apple jelly that forenoon, and to find
her in the kitchen was a great satisfaction to our
friend. He was in a state of exaltation, almost
equal to singing psalms or prophesying.
" A hero's come to light, born an' brought up
amongst the Green Mountains. Brutus V Caesar
'n' General Grant aint no braver. And them that's
been waggin' the head wont do so no longer, fer
old soldiers themselves '11 turn out fer him. Hoo-
ray ! " and Hiel caught off his old straw hat and
threw it high in the air.
"For pity's sake stand out o' my way," said
Martha, somewhat sharply. " I b'lieve you've lost
276 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
"Who is it that is such a hero, Hid?" asked
Ruby, who was now rubbing apple-stains from her
"It's Abram ;" and Hiel crossed his elbows on
the window-sill and looked at her innocently. " You
see Austin's got home ; stayed to the tavern last
night V walked over early this mornin', 'n' now the
whole story's come out. A man down to Boston
thought as how he'd stole some money; so after he
goes to war the man writes to Abram a real threaten-
in' letter 'n' calls fer a thousan ' dollars. Then Abram,
he gives up goin' to war, gives up — wal, sev'ral other
things too numerous to mention " — with a sidelong
glance at Ruby — " keeps the story 'n' disgrace all
to himself, and stays to home 'n' bears the sneers o'
folks that aint fit to clean his boots, 'n' just turns to
'n' raises that money, dollar by dollar. See ? Why
he's bigger 'n' braver 'n any soldier we sent out
from Gilead. They don't make uniforms big enough
for such a man, in my opinion ; " and Hiel smote
the window-sill with an emphatic fist.
" Don't you dare to joggle my jelly-tumblers ! "
cried Martha, and then, sinking into a chair, she
returned to the subject-. " Did you ever ! And
I'm glad of it. You'll bear me witness, Hiel, that
I never yielded that he stayed at home because he
was afraid o' gunpowder."
Ruby did not speak. A sudden sensation of
faintncss swept over her ; the warm kitchen, with
its odor of jelly, became unbearable, and without
a word of explanation she disappeared.
" There, Hiel, now you've hit Ruby, and I s'pose
you're happy," said Martha.
RUBY'S HERO. 277
" No, I aint ; " and Hiel shook his head soberly.
" I didn't know she'd feel it. Seems to me women
're queer about such things. She don't want two
beaus, I sh'd hope. Where's that little lieutenant?
But I see my room's better 'n my company."
Hiel had cause for this suspicion, as Martha had
begun to hum " The Last Rose of Summer."
For the first time in her life Ruby felt that she
had made a fatal mistake ; and as she locked her
door and sank upon her knees by the window she
looked quite wretched enough to suit the most ex-
acting lover ; for the shadows had suddenly been
dispelled, and to Ruby's own surprise she found
that Abram was still enshrined in her heart of
hearts. She also saw clearly, what she would not
admit before, that she had never fully deceived her-
self with the theory that she neither respected nor
loved him. Respect ! She felt that this was a cold
word to express the sentiment which responded to
the sudden revelation of his excellence. Once con-
vince a woman that a man is morally heroic, that
he has suffered in silence from some high and wor-
thy motive, and she is almost ready to worship him.
Being created with this tendency, it will take gen-
erations to uproot it. Hence the strength of this
utilitarian age would better be expended in evolving
the ideal man who is " morally heroic " than in
eradicating this tendency. Ruby, being a sensitive,
high-minded girl, was fully capable of appreciating
nobility in others and giving to it her homage ;
but, mingled with her love and admiration, was just
now the thought of her injustice toward Abram.
" What a fool I've been ! " she sobbed. " I wouldn't
278 . THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
even let him explain. O, he'll never wish to see me
again, I'm sure."
But with every ejaculation and tear-fall Ruby grew
more convinced that the love she had spurned was
of the kind which " many waters cannot quench."
That Abram had never changed she fully believed,
but there was the barrier between them which she
herself had raised, but which she dare not attempt
to destroy !
At tea the subject she dreaded was the theme of
conversation. Squire Fletcher had met Austin, and
was delighted with the tall, soldierly fellow.
" He's got to be a fine young man," said he, ap-
provingly. " The fact is, Gilead is turning out some
young folks who wont need to take off their hats to
any body. There's Abram, now ; it aint one in a
thousand who could have borne what he has these
two years past. I'm glad that thing's cleared up
to his credit, for he's bound to be a leading man
among us. They tell me he's been writing a prize
essay on farming that's making quite a stir. Per-
haps he was kept from using the sword that he
might use his pen. By the way, I guess you owe
him an apology, don't you, sis?"
Ruby turned her agitated face toward her father
and meekly responded,
" Yes, sir ; I do," while Mrs. Fletcher hastened
to say :
" You wouldn't have Ruby do any thing unlady-
like, I'm sure, would you, father ? I dare say he
understands it was all a mistake."
" Humph ! I presume he does; but that may not
make it anv easier to bear. Fact is, I never could
RUBY'S HERO. 279
see any thing ' unladylike ' in saying you're sorry
if you've done wrong."
Ruby thanked her father with a smile for this
comforting bit of logic. She was sure now that,
however crossing it might be, she must take the first
step toward a reconciliation.
It would be an easy matter to create a labyrinth
at this point through whose intricate and nearly
interminable ways our young friends should
wander in their search for a " sequel ; " but some-
times Love walks along the line which is geo-
metrically described as marking the " shortest dis-
tance between two points."
The weather, even, was propitious to a speedy
adjustment of misunderstandings, for October held
no more perfect day than was the Sabbath just after
Austin's return. Ruby's dark-blue silk fitted the
day admirably, as did the dainty bonnet which
matched it. She dressed herself with unusual care
that morning, and who shall inquire as to her
It was a kind of " red-letter day " in Gilead, for
more of the " Guards " were at home than had been
before. Lieutenant Plumley, David Douglas, and
others were " on furlough," after a stay in a Wash-
ington hospital ; and John Henry Hickey was out
for the first time, his thin, sallow face beaming with
repressed satisfaction. There, too, was Mrs. Smith,
in her deep mourning, with Homer, pale and emaci-
ated still, on the seat beside her, while Byron, with
a look of responsibility and care-taking which made
him appear like a little old man, sat on the front
seat and guided the spiritless old horse.
280 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Will any one who remembers those days ever
forget how the boys looked in their uniforms — no
longer new and fresh — as they returned to their
country homes ? Can you not see the jaunty air
with which they doffed their " soldier-caps " as they
entered the plain, cool vestibule of the old church ?
They were eager to see familiar faces, and the
subdued greetings exchanged just outside the inner
door were heartfelt. As they walked up the un-
carpeted aisles they knew very well that every de-
corous eye was upon them, that every loyal heart
was paying homage.
Austin's "empty sleeve" gave him a claim to
universal attention, while the events connected with
his return furnished material for much whispered
conversation during the " nooning," when old ladies
and children ate cookies and crackers and young
men stood upon the steps quietly exchanging views,
in utter subjugation to " Sunday clothes " and the
hallowing influence of the day.
The forenoon sermon, the Sunday-school session,
and the afternoon sermon were over at last, and
the people of both churches were dispersing, when
Ruby returned to the gallery on some pretext,
where Abram still lingered. He had been very dig-
nified that day ; for, being fully aware of his vindica-
tion in the eyes of the public, he unwittingly repaid
some of Ruby's scorn by an unusually reserved and
preoccupied manner. But, nevertheless, she re-
turned and stood by the melodeon as she had stood
on that other Sunday more than two years before.
Did she remember? Abram wondered.
" Mr. Steele — Abrarn — I am very sorry I have
RUBY'S HERO. 281
misjudged you so," she said, her face turned away
" Miss Fletcher — Ruby — so am I ! " he replied, a
little stiffly, and after a painful pause.
And then, with an embarrassed laugh, a flushing
face, and tear-filled eyes, Ruby turned toward him.
" You know I was terribly mistaken ! " she fal-
The transparent frost-work in Abram's eyes im-
mediately disappeared. He stepped over the back
of the seat which separated them and grasped her
hand, saying, almost fiercely,
" Ruby, how much do you mean by that ? "
" I mean that I am very sorry that I wronged
you, and for all that has happened."
This was not what Ruby had planned to say, but
as she covered her eyes with her free hand, trying
in vain to control herself, Abram seemed perfectly
satisfied. Not quite, however; he had one more
question to ask :
" Ruby, are you engaged to that — lieutenant?"
She shook her head promptly.
And then, why, then the reconciliation took
place, particulars of which the faithful historian has
never received. Suffice it to say that as they left
the old church a little later side by side, as they
have walked ever since, she said :
" But remember, Abram, I haven't taken back
what I once said to you ; for even if you didn't
go to war I have got my hero ! "
" And remember, Ruby, that though I didn't go
to war I have captured my rebel," returned Abram,
with a contented smile.
282 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
THE raiders never appeared in Gilead. Whether
sufficient funds had been elsewhere secured
to answer the purposes of the Confederacy, or
whether the military bearing of frontier towns
struck terror to their hearts, we cannot tell; but at
any rate the unscrupulous desperadoes retreated.
Then women dared once more to linger outside
the garden gate at twilight, and in time forgot to
set their home-made " burglar-alarms," deftly con-
trived of tinware and twine, and fastened by a curi-
ous mechanism to doors and windows. But al-
though this " reign of terror " was over the public
mind was far from a state of rest. As before
stated, the presidential election was approaching,
and while corn and pumpkins were ripening in quiet
fields the country was in a ferment. The best and
worst elements in every community were aroused.
Public meetings, discussions, disputes, bonfires, and
newspaperial bombs absorbed attention. Soldiers,
at home and in the field, were interested and busy;
for the Union army was an army of ideas, whose
opinions as well as bullets were devoted to the
service of their country. But at length the struggle
and the suspense were over, and the nation filled its
lungs to hurrah for Lincoln. By an overwhelming
THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 2S3
majority, which surprised even his most sanguine
friends, he was elected for a second term. There
were ratification meetings, jubilees, head-lines, capi-
tals — every thing that could emphasize the shout,
" Old Abe is elected ! " which rang joyfully from
the Atlantic to the Pacific. Loyalty to and confi-
dence in government revived, and the army, with
new life and courage, saw victory ahead. Is it any
wonder that, with bountiful harvests to crown the
year, New England could welcome its Thanksgiving
day? Not that they forgot the awful shadow of
war. There were too many empty chairs and too
many distant graves to allow it. But they had
learned the meaning of " our country " as never
A musician sits down to a small instrument and
finds it too .limited for the complicated music he
would play. The highest and the lowest tones find
no keys to speak through. Just so we are aware
that our country town could not express the in-
tensity of city life nor the bitter depths of battle-
fields and hospitals ; but according to its capacity it
responded truly to the varied emotions of the great
conflict. Pain and patriotism were the same every-
where. So, just at this period, we need not refer
to statesmen and army officers to find an illustra-
tion of the prevailing sentiment — although Washing-
ton was overflowing with it — but turn to Joe Arm-
strong's little home in the mountain district.
Joe was sitting up. The parlor had been made as
bright as possible, which was very bright indeed, in
honor of the event. Vic had prepared and arranged
quantities of brilliant autumn-leaves and scarlet
284 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
" runners " when they were at their best, which
glowed upon the light-papered walls and hung in
festoons over the windows. In the well-polished
box-stove a jovial fire snapped and sparkled.
There was a warmth and snugness in the atmos-
phere which soothed poor Joe like a loving hand
as he sat with pillows at his back and a blanket
over his shoulders, where he could watch his little
wife as she bustled about in the kitchen, "getting
ready for Thanksgiving," which anniversary came on
"Vic !" called Joe.
In an instant she was at his side.
"You say they're very sure that old Abs'e
elected ? "
" Yes, indeed ; the papers say that the returns
're all in, and it's all right."
" O, I'd like to go back now and help finish up the
war ! " he sighed.
" You look like it, Joe, don't you ? I think you'd
better wait till you get your bones fairly covered.
Why, you couldn't whip the baby, and what would
you do with a rebel ? " laughed Vic.
" I know, but I'm going to begin to eat like
other folks to-morrow. I've lived on spoon victuals
long enough," said Joe.
Vic patted his head tenderly. " So you shall.
I'm going to have two of my own white-breasted
chicks killed to-night, for father and the boys are
coming to dinner, and you shall have the broth and
a little meat and a bit of my nice bread and a tiny,
tiny piece of pie ! "
Joe looked admiringly at the trim figure beside
THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 285
him. " Vic, I've been wanting to ask about it.
Every thing is so nice and bright, and the house
fixed up, and good things to eat. Do you really
make the bread and stuff that smells so good when
you're baking? "
Vic nodded, while her face dimpled with hap-
" What a wonderful woman you are ! " exclaimed
She placed her hand over his mouth. " Don't
you say so, fcr I'm not wonderful at all. I'm just
an ignoramus about most things, but I'm a little
better than I used to be, Joe."
Holding her hand in his own, he said : " I've
been scared to ask, for fear 't wouldn't be true ; but
now tell me all about it."
" 'Tvvas trying to catch up to you, Joe, and it's
been awful hard," she replied ; and then, half laugh-
ing, half crying, she told the story of her struggle
with the old habits, her trials and her triumphs.
He listened with an appreciation which more than
repaid for the long waiting.
" My old Vic was too good for me," said Joe,
humbly, "but the new one's ahead! You'd make
a good soldier, Vic. Dear me ! what have I done
to deserve such blessin's? I don't believe there's a
man in the United States that's got more to be
thankful for than I have. I'm alive, that's one!
Abraham Lincoln's elected, that's two ! I've got
the best wife in the world, that's three ! And the
smartest baby" — as little Nellie came trotting in — -
"that's four! and lots of other things too numer-
ous to mention."
286 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
Vic kissed him gently on the forehead and hurried
into the kitchen, where savory odors called for at-
tention, and Joe leaned back and tried to sing,
" Praise God, from whom all blessings flow ! "
Joe's hands were still lean and yellow, his face
wore shadows and lines that had no right to be
there, his clothes hung upon him in absurd folds,
and behind him was the memory of Andersonville ;
but he was loyal to the heart's core, and, having
given his strength to his country, he didn't know
any better than to sing the Doxology ! And in
spite of all his " blessin's " he was quite ready to
go and " help finish up," had it been possible.
Preparations for a family reunion at Mr. Steele's
had culminated that afternoon in the arrival of
Uncle Austin and Aunt Elizabeth from Boston.
Esther and Mary were again at home also, after a
delightful term at Hope Seminary, grateful for their
brother's return, proud of his empty sleeve, but
doubly grateful and proud over Abram's vindication.
" How blind we were not to see that he must be
all right from the beginning!" said Esther.
" Ah, but he might have told us !" said Maiy.
" He done right," interrupted their father, " and
I shall always bless him for savin' us from the dis-
grace we'd have had to feel for two long years. My
son " — and he turned toward the desk — " I found a
Bible text for you this mornin': ' Fear not, Abram, I
am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.' If
I had the Thanksgivin' sermon to preach to-morrow
I should enlarge on it." There was a hearty laugh'
over that idea, but the text was not forgotten.
In the pantry, during the dish-washing session,
THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 287
Esther and Mary exchanged opinions, with closed
doors, as they had done so many times before, and
fully decided that while they might forgive every
one else who had wronged Abram they could never,
never forgive Ruby Fletcher.
" She's been too cold and proud," said Esther.
" Too impudent, I say," added Mary. "And now
we can hold our heads as high as she can, and I
shall do it, too."
In the midst of this unrelenting dissection of
poor Ruby Abram tapped at the door, came in, and
seated himself on the meal-chest as of yore. " It
seems good to have you home again, girls," said he,
"but we mustn't keep you here, I suppose. Now
that all the money we raked together has come back
again there isn't any reason why you shouldn't
have part of it. I would rather have it go toward
your education than in any other way. It doesn't
look like ordinary money to me. But that wasn't
exactly what I came in to say. We are all invited
to spend to-morrow evening at Ruby's. Would you
like to go ? "
There was an ominous silence for a moment, and
then Esther asked in a low tone, " Have you for-
given her, Abram ? "
He responded with a joyous laugh, "Forgiven'
her ! I rather think I have. O, yes ; she was ' true
blue,' but she has suffered too."
" Well, Abram," said Maiy, in her impulsive way,
" I've said a hundred times to-day that you're a
hero; and now I think you're a saint ! "
At that self-same hour Martha Thompson looked
into the sitting-room at the squire's, where sat Mrs.
288 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Fletcher, Miss Hancock, and Ruby, busily complet-
ing a dress.
" Any body 'd know 'twas Thanksgivin' to-morrow
just to look into our buttery," said she.
"Come in, Martha," called Mrs. Fletcher, and
" Come in " echoed the others.
" Tell us what you've been doing."
"Well" — and Martha, nothing loath, took a seat
by the door — " I've made bread 'nd nut-cakes; pump-
kin-pies an' apple-pies an' mince-pies ; raisin-cake, an'
stri-ped cake an' frosted cake ; got my turkey ready
for the oven an' cleaned up my kitchen. Yes, I must
say I've done atol'able day's work, an' I'm real tired."
" You poor, dear soul ! " said Mrs. Fletcher, " I'm
afraid we put too much upon you, having Hiel's
wedding here in addition to the big dinner. You
couldn't have done more for him if he'd been your
own brother. I suppose you'll miss him a good
deal when he finally goes."
A sniff of strong ammonia could not have re-
vived Martha's drooping spirits more effectually.
" Miss him ! " she repeated, " don't worry about
my missin' that gawming* creature. I shall be able
to keep things decently clean after he's out o' the
way, I sh'd hope. But how he's goin' to get along
with Mis' Follinsbee's cookin' I can't imagine. A
man that likes good victuals 's well 's Hiel does —
Its none o' my business, though." A short pause,
and then with a dry laugh she continued : "What
taste for a wcddin' dress ! Must seem queer to take
off weeds and put on purple plaid; don't you think
so, Miss Hancock?"
* A word often heard in the northern New England States.
THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 2S9
" O, I don't know ! Sophronia Follinsbee never
has had much to spend in dress, and perhaps she's
a little puzzled to know just what is suitable. But
I'm glad to see her enjoy herself after eating the
bitter bread of poverty all her days ; and if she
wants a lemon-colored silk and a pea-green shawl
I wont object, though I don't believe she will. She
reminds me of one of these late-blooming asters.
You think they're all dead after frost comes, and
then you'll see a bright purple one, perhaps, blossom-
ing out as gay as you please. Never had a chance
to blossom before ; that's the reason."
Martha's face softened a little, but she gave a
sniff of disapproval as she continued :
" It takes you to see the good there is in folks,
Miss Hancock. If I die before you do I want you
to promise here an' now that you'll write what's put
in the paper about me."
" I will, Martha," replied Miss Hancock, smil-
ingly, " for you and I are standing witnesses that
women can be useful and happy even if they don't
" We couldn't spare Martha to be married, even
if she wanted us to," said Ruby.
"H'm! don't worry! I'm glad enough that I'm
not the one to wear that purple dress to-morrow."
They laughed, and shook out the neat wedding-
dress, scrutinizing and criticising their work as
women will, but Martha retreated to the kitchen.
" Strange folks '11 be so pleased over a weddin',"
said she to herself as she groped her way to the
match-safe. " There's Ruby, as chirk 's can be,
tellin' in her face every minute that she's made up
290 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
with Abram. Next thing she'll be goin' ofif. But I
think it's a solemn subject ; " and Martha placed her
hand over that strange organ called the heart with
a half groan.
If every thing did not occur on the following day
just as it was planned it was not the fault of the
weather. Blue sky, crisp cold air, and just snow
enough for "good slippin','' as the farmers said,
made up a typical Thanksgiving day.
Hiel was married after the church service, and
every one who witnessed the ceremony, even Mar-
tha, agreed that " Mrs. Hiel " looked " remarkably
And the dinners were eaten. This was only a
repetition of former gastronomical feats, but no less
surprising on that account.
And in the evening Ruby had her young friends
gathered in the big parlor, after the manner of a
modern reunion. Every returned soldier who was
able to leave his own fireside was present. Some
were pale and weak, several were crippled, and a
few others were on the eve of a return to their
regiment. But for that one evening they sang the
grand war songs and hymns that held memories of
other days and other voices, told stories comical
and pitiful, and feasted on dainties prepared by
And Abram once more sang with Ruby. The
seemingly impossible had come to pass, and no one
rejoiced in this token of " love's justice" more than
Austin, who stood beside the piano, quietly observ-
ant. Esther and Mary looked on also, but with
limited approval, until, overborne by Ruby's sweet
THANKSGIVING AGAIN. 291
humility, they silently " grounded their arms " and
yielded to the inevitable. And Esther was gener-
ous enough to rejoice in her brother's happiness and
self-forgetful enough to try to join in the songs,
even while her thoughts wandered away to a lonely
grave on a southern battle-field and her heart cried
out for one who could never return.
292 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES.
AS has been already stated, the re-election of
Lincoln was a source of encouragement and
strength all through the North. And this was in-
creased by his official acts, commencing with his
" Message," issued early in December. It is proba-
ble that more people perused this document than
had ever before attempted a similar task. Mr. Lin-
coln had one rare gift : he was able to make him-
self understood ; hence the " common people " found
no ambiguity in his terse sentences. As an exam-
ple of this quality we copy here the closing section,
which hints of real independence and unselfish-
" As to slavery, I repeat the declaration made a
year ago, and that while I remain in my present
position I shall not attempt to retract or modify
the Emancipation Proclamation, nor shall I return to
slavery any person who is free by the terms of that
proclamation or by any of the acts of Congress. If
the people should, by whatever mode or means,
make it an executive duty to re-enslave such per-
sons, another, not I, must be their instrument to
perform it. In stating a single condition of peace
I mean simply to say that the war will cease on
S WORDS INTO PL O WSHA RES. 293
the part of the government whenever it shall have
ceased on the part of those who began it.
" Abraham Lincoln."
The nation set its seal to these sentiments when,
the following month, slavery was abolished by law
through the adoption of the famous " Thirteenth
Another omen of good was the great confidence
felt in General U. S. Grant as a military leader.
For more than a year, ever since the surrender of
Vicksburg, in fact, he had been known all through
the North as " Unconditional Surrender Grant."
And the people, longing for victory and peace, built
their hopes upon him. Throughout the winter a
portion of the Union army was kept busy " peg-
ging away " in the South, and to them it became
more and more apparent that the " Confederacy "
was nearly exhausted. Men and money were lack-
ing. To keep their ranks filled they were obliged
to conscript boys as young as fourteen and men as
old as sixty — " robbing both the cradle and the
grave," as General Butler said. Their resources
were pitifully meager, and yet, with a courage born
of desperation, they continued to fight, and men
dared not say when the war would end. It was
perfectly natural, then, for Abram to prepare again
for enlisting and talk confidently of the " spring
campaign." But the recruits with whom he in-
tended to start on a day's notice were never called
One victory followed another through the winter,
and at length came the memorable April of '65.
294 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
Sheridan's victory at Five Forks occurred on the
first day of the month, the grand assault on Peters-
burg the second, the occupation of Richmond on
the third ; Sheridan routed Lee's forces on the
sixth, and on the ninth Lee surrendered to Grant !
The conquest of Richmond was followed by such
rejoicing as can hardly be described. The largest
type and blackest ink of the Standard proclaimed
" Richmond Ours ! After Nearly Four Years of
Terrible Fighting the War is Virtually Over. Now
4 Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace,
Good-will toward Men ! ' "
Enthusiasm ran wild, and the eager hearts in dis-
tant country towns like Gilead could hardly wait for
the news which came singing over the wires and
then found its way more slowly to the little post-
office, thronged every evening to its utmost ca-
Our soldier-boys were always ready to swing their
caps and hurrah, nor were they ashamed when tears
of joy rolled down their cheeks as the news of final
victory was fully confirmed.
But one evening an unusually large crowd col-
lected, drawn together by a strange rumor. Captain
John Bartlett, the brave leader of the ' Guards,'
long mourned as dead, was coming home! His
wife, who had never given him up, and who had
persistently refused to wear crape, had been living
with his widowed mother for a year in a little cot-
tage near Judge Plumley's. Just what news she
had received was not generally known, but the
crowd was willing to wait " till the stage came in "
to test the rumor for itself. And at length the old
SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 295
yellow stage, well splashed with mud from the four
miles' drive, came whirling into the village. The
red-faced, jolly driver wore an assuring smile as he
drew his steaming horses up with even more than
the usual flourish and prepared to throw the mail-
bags out. Then the curtain of the stage door was
lifted and a cheer from the crowd greeted the dark,
worn face that smiled out upon them. It was surely
he, their own young captain, but how changed ! A
few of the boys who had gone out with him were
there, and they clambered upon the steps and wheels
to grasp his outstretched hand, asking question
after question, until he said :
" Bless your hearts, boys, let me see my wife and
mother to-night, and then I'll talk with you a
week ! "
They fell back then, hurrahing again, as he was
borne on to the open door and the waiting hearts
of " home, sweet home."
Captain Bartlett's experience proved to have been
remarkable even in those eventful days. He had
been taken prisoner, with many of his men, the pre-
vious June, was conveyed with them to Anderson-
ville, from whence he, with two others, escaped by
tunneling. Recapture followed and imprisonment
in a still viler " stockade." Preferring death by
bullets or blood-hounds to starvation, he again suc-
ceeded in escaping, and, after almost incredible suf-
fering, in reaching a town in North Carolina. From
that point he traveled about two hundred and sev-
enty-five miles, through swamps and by-ways, over
mountains and rivers, until, about the middle of
March, he succeeded in reaching the Union lines in
296 THE G I LEAD GUARDS.
Tennessee. During all this time the negroes were
his true and trusted friends. They never denied
him food, shelter, nor guidance, and never betrayed
his confidence. On one occasion, when surrounded
by rebel picket-lines, three women took him over a
mountain at their own peril, and so brought him
into a safer route.
But the nation's joy over victories won during
the first two weeks of that memorable April was
turned into mourning when, on the night of the
fourteenth, Lincoln was assassinated ! The terrible
news flashed all over the land, and it was received
with a wail of sorrow that must have reached heaven
itself. Every thing else was forgotten for the time
in the overwhelming, irrepressible sorrow.
"Don't speak to me!" groaned Captain Bart-
lett, as he sat with head bowed upon his folded
arms; "don't speak to me! I feel as if I hadn't
any right to live when such a man dies ! "
And, selfish as human nature is, there was many
another man who would have been willing to die
that day if by so doing he could have given life to
the martyred President. Cold history can convey
no idea of the universal mourning of that day, for
history seldom dips its pen in sentiment.
In the school known as " Hope Seminary" in these
pages there were three hundred pupils. Among
them were young men who had enlisted from there,
served their time in the army, and returned — not
all, alas ! — to finish their preparation for college.
When the news reached the little village where the
school was located the students were scattered here
and there, enjoying their Saturday holiday.
SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 297
On a hill back of the school was a merry little
party gathering fragrant trailing arbutus, first wild
flower of the spring. A student suddenly ap-
proached from the town, hurrying up from rock to
rock in breathless haste. Coming near he gasped :
" Lincoln is dead ! He was shot last night at a
theater in Washington ! "
" Impossible ! " cried the young men of the party,
several of whom were returned soldiers. The report
was confirmed, and they turned away one by one,
weeping as for a near and dear friend !
No words seemed sufficient to express their feel-
ings, and the entire party descended the hill in
silence, bearing with them the beautiful blossoms as
though for his burial. One, at least, of that group
rarely inhales the fragrance of the arbutus without
vividly recalling the shock of that tragic event and
the sense of bereavement which followed it.
But who can explain just why men, women, and
children wept together over Lincoln's death? It
was not simply because he was President. Beyond
this was a genuine love for his unique personality,
a gratitude for service conscientiously given to the
nation, and a kind of adoration for the transparent
soul that followed what he believed was the right.
And until the nation forfeits forever its claim to the
liberty for which he died that love and gratitude
and adoration shall survive.
But little more remains of our simple story.
When, a little later, the great Union army was
finally disbanded, more than a million men returned
with music, with tattered flags, with honors, with
universal acclaim to their homes and friends. The
298 THE GILEAD GUARDS.
prophetic song, "When Johnny comes marching
home again," was literally fulfilled, and " cheers
and shouts " rent the air. And Gilead received its
own again, but not all ! In the long, long list of
" unreturning brave " were names of loyal " Guards "
who had fallen on battle-fields, starved in prisons,
died in hospitals. They perished that we might
enjoy a nation purified of slavery.
One glimpse at a few of our old friends, and we
must leave them.
Mr. Slocum and the tribe he represented were
very unpopular after the Confederacy ceased to
exist. Their policy was to come boldly over to the
support of the government, or to subside into a
quiet but continual growl over the " administration."
Mr. Slocum joined the latter class. Gradually he
lost a large portion of his ill-gotten gains, his chil-
dren were reckless and unfortunate, and life became
Hiel's comment upon his case may be a suitable
epitaph : " A man's bad deeds 'most always ketch
up to him. Sometimes they take the longest way
round, 'n' sometimes they cut 'cross lots, but, which-
ever way 'tis, he needn't expect to get red of 'em."
As for Hicl himself, he became a prosperous cit-
izen and one of the pillars of the church, and never
failed to consider his wedding-day one of the most
fortunate of his life.
Abram and Ruby inherited the Fletcher estate,
and are peculiarly happy in each other and in their
children. His taste for literary work has given him
limited fame, and his native town delights in his
SIVORDS INTO PLOWSHARES. 299
Austin became a business man in Boston, and in
his present self one would hardly suspect the former
youth who enlisted under age and sowed his wild
oats in the army. His partner is one " John Henry,"
who is famous as a "Grand Army" man, with rare
ability to " make a speech."
Joe Armstrong never regained his former strength,
and when Mr. Barstow was laid away in the village
grave-yard Joe took his place. Under certain con-
ditions peculiar to country towns he has retained
this position a series of years, much to Vic's satis-
faction, who is engaged in every good work with a
zeal and persistence born of that first struggle and
triumph in her younger days.
David Douglas left the army broken in health,
but recovered during the years spent in fitting for
the ministry, in which he now finds his work.
"She that was Mary Steele," as they say in Gil-
ead, is his wife, and together they are helping build
Christ's kingdom in the earth.
And Benjie ? After a fitful flight into the great
world, which always seemed so delightful to him —
at a distance — Benjie returned to the farm, where
he has introduced modern improvements to his
Esther is still Esther Steele. For her there was
but one lover. Instead of husband and children she
is identified with the grand reforms and charities of
the present age. Realizing that the nation is not
yet free from the thralldom of legalized sin, she is
one of the stanch advocates of prohibition. She
reaches a helping hand also to the colored women
of the South, who are slowly struggling toward a
300 THE GILEAD- GUARDS.
higher and holier plane of living ; and, not content
with this, her sympathies extend to the unsaved of
other lands, and her voice pleads for the mental
and spiritual elevation of women every-where. But
when Decoration Day comes, with its sadly signifi-
cant rites, other duties are laid aside, and if it be
possible she makes a pilgrimage to her native town,
finds her way to the old grave-yard, and lays upon
a certain grave her floral tribute. Don's mother
rests there, but the simple monument which marks
the spot is sacred to mother and son.
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